Blow to Raila, talks team as panel vows to pick poll body bosses

IEBC officials at the Bomas of Kenya main tallying center on August 11, 2022. [Samson Wire, standard]

The panel formed by President William Ruto for the selection of IEBC commissioners has announced its intention to continue with the exercise in a move that may reignite the standoff between the ruling Kenya Kwanza administration and the opposition.

In a press statement signed by Chairperson Nelson Makanda, the panel outlined how it plans to appoint new commissioners following deliberations with the National Assembly Speaker and Parliamentary Service Commission Chairperson Moses Wetangula.

The panel has already met the Speaker in light of its financial challenges. Wetangula has since committed to liaise with the National Treasury on the allocation of funds towards the activities of the Selection Panel which is supported by the Parliamentary Service Commission, where it draws its secretariat and funding towards the implementation of its mandate.

“The Selection Panel has thus far carried out three stages of verification for all the applications received for the positions of chairperson and members of the IEBC. Further, we are in the process of concluding on the shortlisted candidates, before embarking on the publication of the same and subsequent interviews for successful candidates,” stated Makanda.

The team is now scheduled to have a review meeting on the progress of the panel’s activities in two weeks.

“I assure Kenyans that the Selection Panel is committed to conducting the recruitment exercise in an impartial, fair and transparent manner…The panel will continuously issue updates to the country on the progress of this exercise,” added the statement.

The decision by the panel however threatens to drive a wedge between the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja coalition and Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance which have differed over the selection and appointment of the electoral agency’s commissioners.

While Ruto had selected the panel to hasten the reconstitution of IEBC, Raila’s team has consistently held that political parties must be involved in the process. A bipartisan team co-chaired by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah, as captured in the NADCO report, suggested the process be restarted, and the membership of the selection panel expanded from the current seven to nine.

The High Court earlier this month also dealt a blow to Azimio leader Raila Odinga by ordering for the immediate recruitment of commissioners to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

While dismissing by-partisan talks between Azimio and Kenya Kwanza on the expansion of the IEBC selection panel and reconstitution of the commission for lack of constitutional and legal backing, Justice Thande Mugure ruled that the strict timelines to recruit the commissioners to conduct by-elections and boundaries review cannot wait anymore for politicians to agree.

The judge directed the current IEBC selection panel to immediately continue with the recruitment of a new chair and six commissioners to avert a constitutional crisis.