A showdown is looming between allies of Deputy President William Ruto and Opposition chief Raila Odinga as the Senate reconvenes Tuesday to debate passage of a crucial bill to fill vacant posts at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
This follows the resignation of IEBC vice-chairperson Connie Nkatha Maina and Commissioners Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat in April 2018.
Commissioner Roselyne Akombe resigned days before the repeat October 26, 2017, presidential election.
Their resignations left only three commissioners in office, namely: Chairman Wafula Chebukati, Abdi Guliye, and Boya Molu.
The IEBC Act has no provision, making it difficult to fill the four vacancies at the commission.
However, the Senate Justice and Legal Affairs Committee has ratified the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to refill the vacant commissioners’ positions at the electoral agency.
In September 2019, the bill was approved in the National Assembly after a heated debate characterized by drama and shouting matches between allies of DP Ruto and Odinga.
MPs allied to Dr Ruto won by a small margin – 69 against 56.
The proposed law, sponsored by the House Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, which is chaired by Baringo North MP William Cheptumo, provides for the constitution of the selection panel of IEBC.
Senate’s JLAC chairman Samson Cherarkey (Nandi) on Monday revealed that his committee, which scrutinized the bill sent from the National Assembly, has approved it but with amendments.
“We will lay the bill tomorrow (Tuesday) on the floor. What we have done is approved the bill but with the amendment,” Senator Cherarkey said.
Cherarkey said that his team reduced the number of those sitting in the IEBC selection panel from the 11 approved by the National Assembly to just seven.
Further, the committee has also introduced qualifications for those seeking to sit in the powerful selection panel.
“The National Assembly had not put in qualifications. But now we have it in that you should be a Kenyan citizen, comply with Chapter Six of the Constitution and should have degree from an institution recognized in Kenya among others,” he said.
The panel will have representation from religious organizations, Parliamentary Service Commission and the Law Society of Kenya among other sectors.
“We currently have only three commissioners in office. What shocks me is that we are discussing how to go for a referendum yet we don’t have a properly constituted IEBC. We are putting the cart before the horse, what we should be focusing on is electoral reforms and fair electoral process,” Cherargei said.
If approved by senators and signed by the President, the law will establish a permanent selection panel whose members are nominated by PSC, LSK, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
Once constituted, the panel’s first order of business shall be to fill the vacancies at the IEBC.
The current commissioners were recruited eight months to the last General Election after a Parliamentary Select Committee for Electoral Reforms negotiated the exit of the former officeholders led by the then chairman Isaac Hassan.