Opposition leader Raila Odinga has scored big in the ongoing bipartisan talks following resolutions to overhaul the electoral commission selection panel and audit last year’s presidential election.
The National Dialogue Committee on Friday agreed to restructure and reconstitute the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) selection panel, putting a break on the ongoing recruitment of new commissioners.
The Saturday Standard has reliably established that political parties are set to have more say in the recruitment of commissioners, a proposal fronted by Raila’s Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya. The opposition outfit favours a process akin to the Inter-Party Parliamentary Group adopted to select commissioners ahead of the 1997 General Election.
The proposal, which also seeks to expand the panel from the current seven to nine members, features in the committee’s preliminary report, with the said recommendation set to be tabled in Parliament soon.
Its immediate impact will see the Nelson Makanda-led panel disbanded to allow the formation of a new body, a process that will require an amendment to the IEBC Act that establishes the selection panel.
Reconstituting the IEBC had never really been a major issue, with President William Ruto agreeing from the start to have the subject as an agenda for talks with the opposition. It also featured in the initial bipartisan talks that flopped.
The development comes less than a year after the National Assembly amended the Act to change the composition of the panel.
“The panel shall encompass all shades of groups and interests and, once it is constituted, shall proceed, without delay, with the fresh process of selecting a new IEBC chairperson and new commissioners,” National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said at a press briefing at the Bomas of Kenya.
He revealed plans by the committee to fast-track law changes on some of the issues upon which they have agreed are to be contained in the 10-member team’s final report.
Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire said that the technical teams would put the issues they had agreed on “in a proper framework” by Monday to facilitate their presentation to Parliament for debate and approval.
She announced Kenya Kwanza’s concession to an audit of the election process, a move described by Azimio insiders as a major win for them.
“We have agreed on the development of a framework on the audit of the electoral process, which will be done in two weeks,” Mbarire stated, describing the last stage of the talks as “critical”.
Sources aware of the developments said the audit would not be limited to the results and the IEBC server but would also cover pre-election processes.
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For months, Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance had opposed the audit, arguing that the Supreme Court had put the matter to rest.
The first change of tune came with the United Democratic Alliance’s concession to an audit of electoral processes during the team’s public hearings.
Since then, the talks have seemed a give-and-take affair, with both sides accepting their colleagues' demands. The initial uneasy meetings have also evolved into cordial engagements. That is despite a spirited opposition by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and his allies from the Mt Kenya region, who fear that a truce between Ruto and Raila could sideline them.
Observers have also noted that Gachagua is concerned that the talks could build National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah politically, who co-chairs the committee, hampering the DP’s chances of succeeding Ruto.
On Thursday, the committee announced that it had agreed to establish the office of the leader of the official opposition and entrench that of the prime cabinet secretary in the Constitution.
The committee, led by Ichung’wah and Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, also agreed on political party fidelity, entrenching the two-thirds gender principle and the National Government Constituency Development Fund.
Kenyans are, however, still waiting to see how the committee will resolve the cost of living, which was among the issues that drove the opposition to the streets in demonstrations that paralysed business in Nairobi and other Opposition strongholds.
It remains the major subject that has failed to gain concurrence.
The committee will retreat on October 23 to write its report to be tabled in the National Assembly and Senate.
The committee will be seeking an extension of their mandate, given their 60-day timeline expires on October 28.