We did our best with the tight deadlines, disputes team says

Political Parties Disputes Tribunal chief executive Tryphaena Estambale

Fresh from resolving disputes arising from the party primaries, Political Parties Disputes Tribunal chief executive Tryphaena Estambale opens up on the 305 cases it heard and settled.

Q. How many cases were filed before the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT) and which party had many disputes?

A. Since April 27, 316 cases were filed at the tribunal. In total, 305 cases emanated from disputes in party primaries. We are still gleaning data to determine which party had most disputes.

There are complaints by some aggrieved parties that they were not given enough time to argue their cases. Did the period allocated for handling disputes contribute to this?

Yes. The short period negatively impacted on the time each party in a dispute had to argue. Besides, parties released their internal disputes mechanisms decision on the very last day while the time allocated to the PPDT was limited. As result, the tribunal experienced a deluge of cases arising from the primaries. There was non-compliance with the rule that a party must respond to a complaint within 14 days. This was varied to one or two days; and sometimes to between six to 12 hours.

Of the disputes handled by the tribunal, more than 30 have proceeded for appeals. Any comment regarding this development?

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In fact, 130 cases proceeded to the High Court. Elections are competitive and disputants leave no stone unturned and will insist on appeal even where there is no merit. The Political Parties Act gives the right to appeal against the decision of the PPDT.

Aggrieved parties had to travel all the way to Nairobi for their matters to be heard by the tribunal. Why was the tribunal unable to have sittings in some of the major towns?

Currently the tribunal is not decentralised because of the limitation in its membership. During the party primaries, the PPDT only had two benches. Although the tribunal had identified the problem and made legislative proposals to Parliament, the issue became a still birth.

From your analysis, which were the main issues raised by parties? What major challenges did the tribunal face in handling the disputes?

Issue of jurisdiction, lack of clarity in law, self representation, failure of parties to observe their own election and nomination rules, electoral malpractices — ballot stuffing, election violence, etc — unfair party administrative practices and violation of legitimate expectation by awarding direct nomination where more than one candidate had been cleared to contest party primaries.

The others are illegal substitution of names of party lists, failure to use party lists to conduct elections, failure to provide voting materials such as ballot papers and declaration of winners before completion of tallying.

And what challenges did you face?

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Misjoinder of parties as some parties deliberately failed to enjoin interested parties in their cases, lack of decentralisation and delay in publishing the tribunal’s procedure regulations, which deprived litigants the opportunity to advance their cases with eases.

There is need to re-look the law in order to clarify issues of jurisdiction, need for timely conduct of party primaries and the need to enhance access to justice.

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