MPs race against time to amend laws ahead of repeat election

Parliament is rushing against time to pass controversial changes to election laws as it resumes its sittings today afternoon.

MPs have until Thursday to enact three bills before they go on recess until November.

A joint committee of the National Assembly and the Senate has been collecting views from the public and it is expected to table its report in the two Houses concurrently. 

JUBILEE

The changes target the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act, the Elections Act and the Election Offenses Act.

The committee, made up of Jubilee MPs only after their Nasa colleagues questioned its legality, retreated on Friday last week to write its report at the Windsor Golf Club after four days of public hearings.

On Monday, as the committee concluded its report writing, it emerged that it had adopted majority of the controversial changes with two weeks to the fresh presidential election scheduled for October 26.

The proposed changes, among other things, seek to amend the IEBC Act to drop the requirement that the commission chairperson must be qualified to be a Supreme Court judge under the Constitution. 

CHAIRMAN

The changes— whose timing has also been faulted by Nasa, religious groups, civil societies and ordinary Kenyans who presented their views— seek to remove the requirement that IEBC chairman be a lawyer.

It instead proposes that chairman to be a person with more than 15 years of experience not just in law but any other relevant field.  

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, while presenting his views, disagreed with the proposal.

Because the lawyer requirement is provided for in the Constitution, he said, the subsidiary legislation cannot purport to amend it. 

The changes also provide that IEBC vice-chairman automatically becomes the head of the commission in the absence of the chairman and, therefore, can declare presidential results.

TRANSMISSION

If both the chairman and the vice-chairman are absent, the commissioners present can elect one of themselves to act as chairman.

On the Elections Act, the changes seek to have concurrent electronic and manual transmission of tabulated results from polling stations to the constituency and national tallying centres.

And if there is a discrepancy between the manually and electronically transmitted results, Jubilee MPs want the outcome of the manual process to prevail.

Parties who appeared before the joint committee took issue with this proposal, saying it amounted to taking Kenya back to the manual process.

The bill also notes that failure to transmit the results electronically shall not be used to invalidate the poll and requires the commission to develop a complementary system as back-up.

PETITION

If passed, the proposed law will also require IEBC to announce the result only when it has all the forms.

If adopted by the two Houses and assented to by the president, presidential result forms cannot be declared void if they are not in line with the prescribed format as long as the deviation is not designed to mislead.

Presidential election petitioners will also be required to prove there were irregularities in the conduct of an election and how those irregularities affected the final result.

The Election Offenses Bill provide that presiding and returning officers, who knowingly fail to sign or fill completely result forms, submit incomplete forms or change or falsify them, risk five years in jail without the option of a fine.

They say the proposal will lessen ethnic toxicity that characterises our elections.

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