IEBC jittery as ballot printing case ruling expected on Friday

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission top brass spent the better part of Saturday in a meeting at the Anniversary Towers offices to brainstorm on what to do and avoid being caught flatfooted.

The last-minute decision by the National Super Alliance to challenge the award of the tender to Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing company has, in the words of some commissioners, jolted election preparations.

The ruling on the ballot tender case could have far-reaching ramifications on election deadlines.

The opposition alliance says Al Ghurair has close ties with President Uhuru Kenyatta and cannot be entrusted with printing the papers.

The IEBC is understood to be toying with the idea of an out-of-court settlement. However, no formal discussions have been initiated so far.

GREATEST CHALLENGE

According to IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba, the case is the greatest challenge to the August 8 elections.

“It has far-reaching implications on the polls. That said, we are on course with printing ballot papers for seats and areas that are not in dispute,” he said.

He, however, declined to delve into the implications.

“The matter is in court and we will wait for the ruling on Friday,” Mr Chiloba said.

There are two possible outcomes. One is for the court to strike out the petition, meaning Al Ghurair would proceed with the printing the papers.

COULD CANCEL

On the other hand, the judges could also cancel the contract the IEBC awarded to Al Ghurair on the strength of the arguments and suspicion raised by Nasa and Dr Ekuru Aukot’s Thirdway Alliance.

The latter decision would mean that the IEBC goes back to the drawing board and gets a new company capable of printing the materials with just over a month to the General Election.

It is not the commission alone that is concerned. Security agencies are following the development since the matter is at the heart of the country’s statehood.

Members of the National Security Council met on Thursday, with a source telling the Nation that the ballot case and the state of security ahead of the polls was discussed.

Members of the council are President Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, Attorney-General Githu Muigai, Chief of Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet, National Intelligence Service Director-General Philip Kameru, and Cabinet Secretaries Joseph Nkaissery (Interior and Coordination of National Government), Raychelle Omamo (Defence) and Amina Mohamed (Foreign Affairs and International Trade).

REGISTER ‘FLAWS’

The IEBC is also defending itself against reports of flaws with the electoral register.

The IEBC announced an online voter verification portal and an short message service code 70000 from Thursday to enable Kenyans inspect the roll.

“We wish to notify the nation that the commission has finalised the compilation and certification of the register of voters for purposes of the General Election. The register of voters shall be made available online and via SMS until the election day,” IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said on Tuesday.

No sooner had the two platforms gone live than some probing Kenyans started circulating ‘anomalies’ in the register.

NUMBER ZERO

There were claims that sending the number 0 or any random digits returned results.

Related to this is the case of voters who verified their details in May and June but the short code cannot find their names.

This raises questions about the reason for spending more than Sh1 billion pay KPMG to audit the roll.

With criticism mounting on social media and Nasa joining the fray, word began doing round that online and SMS codes were disabled for a while before being restored. At the time of going to press, the online platform was still “temporarily down for testing” but the SMS was working.

The IEBC denied disabling the SMS service.

‘NOT SUSPENDED’

“The SMS query was not suspended. Anyone with an opposing view can test its efficacy and share the outcome with us,” Mr Chiloba said.

According to the CEO, the feedback the IEBC had received since the code was activated was positive.

The register is at the heart of the election, much more important than the ballot tender disagreements.

During the 2007 and 2013 elections, printing of the papers was not an issue.

The integrity of the voters’ register drove the country to the brink of civil war in 2007-2008.

REGISTER QUESTIONED

In 2013, the register was also questioned by the Opposition.

Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leader Raila Odinga challenged of the outcome of the presidential election won by Mr Kenyatta.

Mr Odinga, who was Cord presidential candidate, said it was not possible for two million Kenyans to vote only for the presidency and not the other five positions of governor, Senate, MP, woman rep and MCA.

He also accused the IEBC of using the Green Book, which the commission had not published before the elections, to prop up the TNA candidate.

Nasa wants the IEBC to release the KPMG report, “since it was funded by the public”.

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