The electoral agency on Wednesday warned that a threat by the opposition to go to court to block the printing of ballot papers carried the possibility of shifting the election date set for August 8.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), however, insisted that though such an injunction will “no doubt affect the election date”, the one set in the Constitution will not be changed.
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati said that with 46 days to the elections, any attempt to alter the Sh2.5 billion ballot printing tender awarded to Dubai-based Al-Ghurair will not only disrupt its timelines, but also affect its preparedness.
“We wish to remind Kenyans that with 47 days to the General Election, court processes that seek to stop key milestones in the remaining days will no doubt affect election date,” he said at the commission’s Anniversary Towers offices.
The commission’s chief executive Ezra Chiloba warned that it was already late to cancel the tender and award it to another firm.
Getting a different firm even through direct procurement, he said, will take not less than two weeks.
“Two weeks is already too late. As we speak now, we are already too late. We are trying to recover on lost time,” said Mr Chiloba.
Earlier, Nasa flagbearer Raila Odinga said the opposition will move to court if the tender awarded to the Dubai-based firm was not cancelled.
Nasa has alleged that Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Ltd has close links with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family.
The firm is to print about 120 million ballot papers, election results forms and poll registers for the elections.
Mr Chebukati also strongly refuted claims by the Nasa leader that ballot papers for the presidential elections had already been printed by the firm.
“The printing of ballot papers has not started. We expect it to begin on Friday . However, the printing of ballot papers for presidential elections shall commence around July 18,” he said.
He warned that talks by the Nasa team and Jubilee Party were a threat to the holding of free, credible and fair elections, and a recipe for chaos.
In his press conference, Mr Odinga repeated claims that the IEBC was pushed by the Jubilee government to award the tender to Al Ghurair.
“IEBC is not acting on their own, but is being pushed by Jubilee to award the tender to Al Ghurair and we will go to court to block it,” he said. He said Nasa was ready for elections but claimed that IEBC was not ready.
CAUSE OF ALARM
“There is no cause of alarm. As Opposition, we are ready for elections and it is IEBC that is delaying us,” he said.
The Nasa chief said the Dubai-based firm is tainted and cannot be awarded the tender.
“Even a fool will tell you that there is something fishy about the company and as Nasa, we will not be led to an already flawed process,” said Mr Odinga.
He said Jubilee cannot win in a free and fair election and that is why the President-led party insisted the tender be awarded to Al Ghurair.
BALLOT PAPER TENDER
The tender row deepened on Tuesday after a South African firm that the Jubilee Party had earlier linked to Mr Odinga also denied any ties with the opposition leader.
It termed the claims made by Jubilee diversionary.
In the meantime, Catholic bishops changed tune on the ballot paper tender, backing IEBC to proceed with the deal unless challenged through a court of law.
After a meeting with the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, the Hindu Council of Kenya, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Council of Churches of Kenya, National Muslim Leaders Forum, Organisation of African Instituted Churches, Seventh Day Adventist and the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, the Catholic Church endorsed the call to “learn from the past where all matters against the IEBC were handled through legal channels”.
“The persistent delay in resolving the controversy around the procurement of ballot papers is dangerous,” the clerics warned in a statement.
“And unless a party is willing to go to court and secure a directive to the contrary, IEBC should be left to implement the national elections timetable.”
Reports by Samwel Owino, Patrick Lang’at and Aggrey Mutambo