Court ruling leaves IEBC with one appeal avenue

Mr Raila Odinga’s National Super Alliance will be in celebratory mood.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party and the IEBC will be absorbing body shocks.

That is the political import from the Court of Appeal ruling on the announcement of presidential election results.

ELECTION DATE
While the Judges mulled over the difference between ‘results’ and ‘result’ or ‘announcement’ and ‘declaration’, they were making judgement of great political impact.

And there were further disorienting an IEBC already distracted by a series of legal and political feuds while supposed to be fully focused on putting in place the final touches to a General Election now just 45 days away.

Unless the Appeal Court ruling is overturned, the country will go into a General Election with the chairman of the electoral body stripped of the power to alter or purport to verify presidential election results declared by Presiding and Returning Officers at the polling station and parliamentary constituency level.

RESULTS FINAL
The Appeals Court basically upheld the High Court finding that the election results transmitted from the lower levels cannot be changed by the IEBC chairman despite his designation as the returning officer in respect of presidential elections.

The suit, initially filed by human rights campaigners Maina Kiai, Tirop Kitur and Khelef Khalifa, had taken on great political significance even before the opposition joined in at the appeal stage.

The contention was that votes already verified, counted, tabulated and declared at the lower levels across the country are final and cannot be altered by IEBC chiefs sitting at the National Tallying Centre in Nairobi.

SUPREME COURT
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati heatedly contested the suit, declaring as a disaster the High Court ruling he felt undermined the workings of the electoral body.

His argument was that instead of one returning officer responsible for declaring the winner of the presidential election, the country was now saddled with 290 returning officers each declaring results.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal disagreeing leaves the IEBC with one more avenue of appeal, the Supreme Court, but meanwhile what might continue to catch attention is the furious political infighting.

GOVERNMENT BACKING
Almost every step of the way, the opposition has piled pressure on the IEBC on issues ranging from its composition, to compilation of the voters register, establish of independent voter tabulation centres, and procurement of election materials.

In almost all instances the electoral body’s fightback has been supported by the governing Jubilee coalition.

This has created the picture of an opposition that says it is trying to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process and counter alleged rigging attempts, up against what seems like a tag-team of Jubilee and IEBC.

DERAILING POLLS
Whether this is a clever scheme by Nasa to create the impression that IEBC is in cahoots with the government is not clear.

However, the opposition coalition also faces accusations out of the various challenges it has mounted that have adversely affected the election timetable.

One is that it has sensed defeat and is trying whatever it can to upset the very tight timelines so that there will be no option but to postpone the elections.

Another is that it is trying to discredit the electoral process so that it can then have the ready-made excuses of rigging if it loses.

POWER-SHARING
It is also accused of deliberately preparing the ground for botched elections that will incite violence, which will then have to be settled by a power-sharing deal akin to the 2008 deal under which Mr Odinga joined President Kibaki’s government as Prime Minister.

While it remains to be seen if the IEBC will move to the Supreme Court over the ruling, there is still another matter pending in the courts on Nasa’s push to have the ballot paper printing tender given under single sourcing to Al Ghurair cancelled.

Mr Chebukati has warned that any cancellation of the tender will lead to postponement of the elections because there of the time needed to float a fresh procurement process.

More drama around the IEBC can be expected in the coming week.

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