Mr Wafula Chebukati, the man at the helm of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), is increasingly finding it hard to push through decisions to pave way for elections in a way he fashions after a majority of the commissioners ganged up against him with just 18 days to the repeat presidential poll.
Last week, his demand that disciplinary action be taken against officers at the ICT department led by James Muhati for serious lapses witnessed in the last polls, which also saw accounts opened and operated by password assigned to him apparently without his knowledge, was defeated through a vote.
“This suspension is necessary to not just restore the waning public confidence in the commission’s ability to prepare and deliver credible polls but also assert the integrity and fidelity of the commission to the rule of law,” Mr Chebukati had last month written in the memo to the CEO Ezra Chiloba.
He has commissioners Ms Margaret Mwachanya and Dr Kwamboka Akombe to his side with his vice Consolata Maina, Mr Paul Kurgat, Mr Boya Molu and Prof Abdi Guliye drifting to opposite direction in ideally all weighty matters from tenders and policy issues.
There are muted concerns that some of the commissioners hold brief for leading politicians in the country, taking order from them on how to vote or approach matters before plenary.
“Virtually all decisions are subjected to voting these days. I can’t remember the last time we arrived at one through consensus,” a commissioner told the Nation.
Even though he has had his way in creating the ‘project team’, a group of individuals drawn from various departments within the commission to spearhead the repeat presidential elections after the courts voided President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory, the chairman has had many of his decision overturned by the four commissioners.
Project team is the symbol of chairman’s disdain for senior managers at the commission led by Mr Chiloba accused of bungling the August poll.
The opposition presidential candidate in the August 8 elections Raila Odinga is demanding the sacking of the CEO and other senior directors from the Secretariat before he participates in the repeat elections slated for October 26.
Long before Nasa kicked off the agitation to send the CEO home, it is understood that a section of the commissioners had asked him to do some soul-searching on whether he was convinced his continued stay at the IEBC was in the best interest of the country.
The reality of division at the commission, which have spilled over to the public, flies in the face of his efforts to reassure Nasa of a credible process as the opposition charges
Mr Chebukati is not in control of the processes and decisions which could guarantee credible polls.
Stung by Mr Odinga’s threat not to take part in the elections, Mr Chebukati has embarked on a shuttle diplomacy involving both Nasa and Jubilee to persuade them to drop their hard-line stance for smooth polls.
His mediation has, however, borne no fruit after the two teams differed on the framework of talks amid protests over Jubilee’s plans to amend electoral laws.
Such a boycott would bring the credibility of the exercise into question and subsequently Mr Kenyatta’s legitimacy to rule.
He came face to face with this revolt when a team drawn from Nasa walked out of a meeting at the Bomas of Kenya protesting the presence of Mr Muhati.
In response, Mr Chebukati has resorted to invoking his powers as the National Returning Officer to force through some of the decisions at the risk of being sabotaged by the secretariat and the other four commissioners.
Questions have also arisen as to whether he could be lone ranging after the select parliamentary committee on Thursday sent him away after he appeared unaccompanied by any of the commissioners, who were said to be busy with preparations for the polls.
Those close to the chairman say he means well and is keen to oversee a free and fair elections.
Training of some 700 staff who have been selected to oversee the fresh election, which started on Wednesday at Nairobi’s Safari Park, is expected to conclude tomorrow.
The staff being trained exclude some five returning officers who have been interdicted over the failings in the August 8 elections.
The training focuses on the legal framework for elections including the election offences law and the penalties therein, operation of the Kiems system, filing of statutory results forms
Saturday, Mr Chebukati exuded confidence saying everything had been put in place to ensure the will of the people would prevail. “We want to run these elections as transparently as possible. We have nothing to hide,” he curtly said.
He was still hopeful he would be able to convince Mr Odinga to run.
But even as Mr Chebukati was reaching out to Nasa, the opposition is demanding his resignation.
Mr Junet Mohamed, the Director of Elections in Mr Odinga’s ODM party, on Saturday asked the chairman to save himself from shouldering the blame of a botched election and quit unless he was part of the plot.
“He should know the blame will squarely lie at his door. Let him ask Kivuitu (the late chairman of electoral body Samwel Kivuitu),” he said.
He wondered why Mr Chebukati would agree to appear before the select committee which is out to clip his powers.
“He must come out clearly and say he is unable to conduct free and fair elections because that is the truth. The commission is taking the country down the precipice and Chebukati must know he will be held responsible,” the Suna East MP said.
Mr David Murathe, a close ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta, called on IEBC to ignore “the noise” and focus on conducting the elections.
He said contrary to the position held by Nasa that proposed changes to elections laws were in bad faith, the IEBC itself had acknowledged they will indeed go a long way in removing grey areas as well as help correct the mistakes identified by the Supreme Court when nullifying the August poll outcome.
“They agree with us on more than 98 per cent of the draft laws. The only thing they have issues with is the section on quorum and powers of the National Returning officer,” he said.
All the commissioners signed a document detailing their views on the Bill which comes up for debate in the National Assembly this week.