Senators have thrown their weight behind the proposed amendments to the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Act to put in a place a selection panel to fill the four vacancies at the electoral body.
Already, there is push and pull over whether to recruit more commissioners to meet the mandatory seven or disband the Wafula Chebukati-led IEBC.
The jostling comes at a time the electoral commission is set to begin boundaries review and delimitation amid budgetary crisis.
The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report which is in its second phase has proposed disbandment of the commission and new commissioners to be picked to conduct the 2022 General Election.
But on Thursday, Senators giving their views on the proposed amendments to IEBC Act, held that a fully constituted electoral commission should be in place because of the prevailing push for a referendum.
“Were it not for court decisions to validate that the commission can continue to work with three commissioners, we would have been in a major crisis. So, the country has stayed for a long time without a selection panel,” said Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen.
Murkomen was speaking when he moved the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Amendment No.3 Bill (National Assembly Bills No.35 of 2019) for the second reading.
The bill by the Senate Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs (JLAC) has recommended qualifications for the members of the IEBC selection panel and reduced their number from eleven to seven.
The committee has also proposed an additional representative from the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
“Parliament is a representative of the people because we are here on behalf of other Kenyans. Therefore, we thought that PSC being members of the selection panel will allow Parliament to have direct input in the entire process,” said JLAC in its report.
Under the new proposal, the selection panel is to comprise seven people, four (two men and two women) nominated by the PSC.
Unlike in 2016 where religious organizations had the lion share in the panel, the Justice committee has given them only two slots.
The Public Service Commission (PSC), Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) will be allowed to name one person each as well as the National Gender and Equality Commission.
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Inter-Religious Council of Kenya shall also name one and two persons each respectively.
The bodies listed above, Murkomen said, are meant to nominate people within seven days of declaration of a vacancy in the office of the chairperson or any member.
Seconding the motion, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, who chairs JLAC said though a proposal to have a selection panel in place of 11 members was suggested, they reduced the number from 11 to seven.
Although the current IEBC came to office eight months before elections, he said, the selection panel at that time constituted of religious leaders Kenyans thought could do a good job.
“It is the thinking of the National Assembly that we should have a selection panel in place with proper qualification,” he said… “It is important that we have a fully constituted IEBC in office.”
He said the committee observation was that it was important to specify the number of commissioners of IEBC as provided in the Bill.
“This will avoid conflict of Parliament or both Houses if unable to agree on a number at any particular time. We agreed on seven so that in case there are differences between both Houses, it becomes easy to resolve,” he said.
On his part, Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ said he was convinced that the country needs an electoral commission that is fit for purpose.
“I am convinced that the approach we had to the nomination of members and Chairpersons of the IEBC is flawed. I am just not convinced that the approach that we have put on the table is the best one. Even if it was the best one, it is important for this House to be convinced on the basis of reducing the number from the 11 proposed by the National Assembly to seven 7 by the Committee of Justice and Legal Affairs and Human Rights so that we do a vote that is devoid of the strict political formations, at the end of the day,” said Kajwang.