A US-based election observer group has asked President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party to shelve its proposed election laws amendments until after the October 26 fresh presidential poll.
The Carter Center, whose observer group in the invalidated August 8 elections was led by former US Secretary of State John Kerry, also welcomed ongoing engagements between the electoral agency and the Jubilee Party and Mr Raila Odinga-led National Super Alliance (Nasa).
“Making last-minute changes to an electoral law is contrary to good electoral practice, especially in the absence of political consensus on such changes,” the observer group said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Jubilee Party officials claim that they introduced the amendments to assure the implementation of the court’s ruling. However, the court did not find the law at fault in the August 8 election, instead ruling that the implementation of the law was faulty.”
The statement by the centre further piles pressure on President Kenyatta’s team, who have received similar opposition of its move by the European Union observer mission, 14 foreign envoys in Kenya led by US’ Robert Godec, as well as the Anglican and protestant churches under the National Council of Churches of Kenya banner.
The leading party has proposed changes that will include jail term for poll officials who fail to sign or damage results declaration forms, a change of IEBC quorum from five to three commissioners and a provision for the vice-chairperson and a chosen commissioner to act in the absence of the agency’s chairman.
According to the observer group, the changes should only be introduced in the repeat elections when all parties can engage in a thorough review of the comprehensive legal framework.
“Credible elections can be organised under the existing legal framework,” the team said.
Even if they were to be changed, the Carter Center said, such hurried amendments to the laws with far-reaching effects on the conduct of the fresh poll will hamper the ability of IEBC to deliver a credible poll.
“Any changes would not be effective until October 13 at the earliest, leaving the IEBC with less than two weeks to implement changes in procedure based on the amendments and to train polling station personnel accordingly,” the team said, noting that time constraints had led the IEBC to use the same ballot paper printer and polls technology provider.
In its statement, the observer group called upon the IEBC to thoroughly train its officials with focus on the mistakes pointed out by the Supreme Court in its landmark ruling that invalidated President Kenyatta’s victory.
The team welcomed the ongoing engagements between the IEBC and the two leading political parties.
“It is critically important that political parties stop attacks on the Supreme Court and IEBC and focus on the issues impacting the Kenyan voter. They also should work to ensure broad coverage of political party agents across polling stations and especially at the constituency tallying centers. These agents should be well prepared to monitor the counting, tallying, and transmission processes,” the Kerry-led team said.
Muturi says laws will take effect after the President assents to them.