President Kenyatta and National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Raila Odinga have been urged to consider nominating representatives to be embedded in the electoral commission to monitor every stage of preparations for the repeat election to end the stalemate over election preparations.
In a new report, the International Crisis Group, a conflict prevention organisation, warns that the standoff between the two parties could trigger a crisis if the election does not go ahead as scheduled on October 26.
The Brussels-based organisation asked the Jubilee Party and Nasa leaders to abandon the path of brinkmanship and strike agreement on the way the fresh election will be conducted.
“One way forward might be for both camps to embed an agreed number of party representatives in the IEBC to observe every stage of preparations,” Crisis Group’s report says. “This would include, in particular, active monitoring of tallying and results transmission.”
The briefing, How to Ensure a Credible, Peaceful Vote in Kenya, says such a deal would echo a similar arrangement in 1997 when the opposition had threatened to boycott elections unless minimum reforms were effected. As part of the compromise, President Daniel arap Moi agreed to appoint opposition representatives to the electoral commission based on their parliamentary strength.
The International Crisis Group warns that the extreme positions taken by all sides could trigger a constitutional crisis. It urges the Jubilee Party to drop its proposed changes to electoral laws, saying these should only be implemented after building cross-party consensus, preferably after the election.
It also asks Nasa not to insist on extensive changes that might leave the electoral commission hamstrung and unable to run the election on time.
“Little time remains before the expiration of the statutory 60-day deadline for holding a fresh election,” the report reads. “Both Jubilee and NASA should approach forthcoming talks with the IEBC in a spirit of compromise to find a path forward. Both must avoid acting unilaterally or in ways that undercut the credibility of the vote or prospects for compromise.”
There has been rising anxiety in the country following the failure of both Jubilee and Nasa to strike a deal on the way the new poll will be conducted.
The Jubilee Party has proposed a raft of changes to electoral laws. But diplomats have warned these will sour the environment before the fresh election and are against global best practice which discourages changes to the electoral framework in the election season.
The UN and envoys from the US and Europe earlier in the week also urged Nasa to drop its threats to boycott the election and embrace dialogue.
In the new briefing, the group also calls on authorities to bring to book police officers who violently suppressed protests following the August 8 election and to urge restraint from the security officers before, during and after the election.
“The Inspector General of Police should issue instructions, including publicly, to officers to obey Kenyan law and avoid excessive force when handling protests. He also should provide security to figures playing a role in the wider electoral process, including judges.”
The IEBC has also been urged to engage in thorough training of its officials before the election and to publicise its plans on how it will handle electronic transmission from areas without 3G network.
The report calls on Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta to borrow a leaf from their counterparts in recent high-stakes elections in Ghana and Nigeria and commit to challenge results peacefully.
“In particular, they publicly should pledge to pursue grievances related to the forthcoming vote in the courts not the streets. Consensus on election procedures might offer an opportunity for joint statements by the two candidates or other Jubilee and NASA leaders calling for a peaceful campaign. Their very appearance together would do much to reverse the polarisation deepening between the camps.”