The Jubilee Party and the National Super Alliance are taking no chances on election day as they move to deploy agents at all polling stations.
The high stakes in this election and the Court of Appeal’s judgement that presidential results as declared at the constituency are final, has made the recruitment of agents an urgent affair.
The Nation has learned that Nasa has already recruited its agents and they await deployment while Jubilee is training its agents on their role according to the law.
The agents for the presidential candidate will now be key to ensuring that there is no fiddling with results since what is announced at the constituency will not be altered for whatever reason.
In their judgement, appellate court judges noted that returning officers and other employees of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ought to be treated as provided by the law. Although the judges seemed to agree that the powers of the commission needed to be decentralised, this has not removed the burden on political parties to ensure that votes cast are recorded and announced correctly.
Following the judgement, Nasa stated that it would go out of its way to guard the results by ensuring it deploys five agents per polling station.
This may, however, run into head winds as the law allows only one agent per candidate. “A political party may appoint one agent for its candidates at each polling station,” states the law.
It further states: “Where a political party does not nominate an agent, a candidate nominated by a political party may appoint an agent of the candidate’s choice.”
This provision effectively means that no candidate may have more than one agent.
Jubilee executive director Winnie Guchu said the party was well prepared for elections. “The elections are covered by the Constitution, the Elections Act and also the court edicts like the recent judgement. We are studying all to comply with the law,” she said.
But ODM director of elections Junet Mohamed said that the Opposition planned to circumvent this provision because Nasa comprises five parties and each will have their own agent.
“Remember the five parties are supporting one presidential candidate. That means we will still access polling stations,” he said, adding that hiring of agents had been finalised.
“Each party is entitled to recruit one agent. We will, therefore, have five agents per polling station,” he said.
The law and the competitive nature of elections means parties will have to dig deep into their pockets to ensure they have agents across the country.
As designed, the law gives priority for parties to have their agents and where not possible, the candidates may nominate their agents.
This means that if a party has an agent, that agent will be responsible for all six contested seats as opposed to six candidates having an agent each.
Since the elections will be declared at the constituency level, there is a danger if agents are not well trained or they are compromised by the rival parties.
A compromised agent may turn a blind eye and allow results to be altered. This may happen especially in the strongholds of leading presidential candidates.
It is this fear that the electoral commission had when it argued that the chairman of the commission should be the final person to announce results.
However the Court of Appeal argued that there were enough safeguards in the law to deter agents and returning officers from altering results.
“In any case, apart from the offences related to voting, or any other election-related offences committed by members or employees of the appellant created under the Election Offences Act, section 30 of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act makes it an offence for a member or employee of the appellant, to knowingly subvert the process of free and fair elections,” said the judges.
They added: “A person who is convicted of an election offence is not eligible to hold public office for a period of 10 years following the conviction. As we have indicated, there are several mechanisms that the appellant can and must deploy to eradicate malfeasance on the part of its staff and officers.”
Lawyers Lempaa Suyinka and Dennis Mosota said the law was clear that only authorised agents could access the polling station. “The party’s should hire the agents. They got a lot of money during nominations though the aspirants. It is better for parties to have agents than the candidate,” said Mr Suyinka.
Mr Mosota said ODM was just using political language and there was need for them to read what the law says.
“If they intend to adopt the polling station, then it must be within the framework of the law. The law presupposes that an agent acts in the best interests of the party or the candidate,” he said.
They complement campaign forays being led by President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto.