Capital FM (Nairobi)

15 October 2012

Kenya: Electoral Body Must Assure All On Readiness for 2013 Poll

POLYCARP IGATHE:

I submit that it is time Kenya's preparedness for a general election on March 4, 2013 is incisively interrogated.

We cannot afford a repeat of the dowdy, slipshod general election held in December 2007.

Firstly, the general election held in December 2007 was managed by a team that was incapable of discharging its mandate a.k.a incompetent.

Secondly, the elections relied on a defective voter register. Thirdly, there existed gross inequality in the voting populations of Kenya's constituencies breaching a fundamental equality principle of democracy enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya.

Fourthly, numerous unbelievably high turnout figures were reported in the strongholds of both main political parties, clear evidence of extensive perversion of polling. Fifthly, the system of tallying, recording, transcribing, transmitting and announcing results was conceptually defective and poorly executed.

We could go on and on and on to enumerate the dozen grave findings by the Kriegler commission.

The commission summarised the report of their findings in simple and clear terms; the 2007 general election was so materially defective, that it was impossible for anyone to establish true or reliable results for the presidential and parliamentary elections.

So here goes the big question. Is the country competent and adequately prepared to ensure Kenya does not get a repeat of 2007 when the general election was declared so 'materially defective as to determine the winner or the loser?'

Can the key arms of government namely the Executive, the National Assembly and the Judiciary confirm that indeed the IEBC is ready for March 4, 2013? Allow me to disclose in this blog, that the business and investor community in Kenya is seriously concerned about IEBC's preparedness for the March 4, 2013 event.

A few more questions need to be asked to test the preparedness and competency levels by the IEBC ahead of the 2013 general elections;

Do the Constitution of Kenya and the newly enacted legal frameworks eliminate inconsistencies that weaken the IEBC's effectiveness in guiding the electoral process?

What is the level of institutional legitimacy of the IEBC and public confidence in the professional credibility of its commissioners, chairman, CEO and staff?

Does the IEBC now feel they have the necessary independence, capacity and functionality as they prepare for March 4, 2013?

Are there any weaknesses in the IEBC's organisational structure, composition and management systems? To what extent are the electoral process and the electoral environment polluted by the conduct of public participants, especially political parties and the media?

When will the voter registration exercise begin and when will it end? What systems are in place to avoid and eliminate defects in the voter register? Have anomalies in marking the boundaries of constituencies been truly and fully eliminated?

What protocols are instituted to avoid rampant abuse of polling normally effected via bribery, vote buying, intimidation and ballot stuffing?

How will the IEBC ensure effective data collection, collation, transmission and tallying? And ultimately the electoral process?

Has the defective system of electoral law enforcement and dispute resolution been fixed?

Is an effective communication system in place between IEBC and political parties, observers, the media or the public, particularly regarding the national tally centre?

What visible action is ongoing to curb culture of electoral lawlessness that has developed over many years?

Do we have enough police and security personnel to oversee elections and still maintain guard against Al Shabaab security threats and other security risks? Or shall we need the army to support the police?

Satisfactory answers are required to the litany of preparedness questions and perhaps many more. Lacking answers I suggest Kenyan leaders must not feel shy to build consensus at all levels to pursue a pragmatic and reasoned decision to postpone the date of elections from March 2013 to August 2013.

A united and peaceful Kenya is more important than an election date. I conclude by yet again appealing and inviting concerned citizens, civil society lobby groups, business associations, religious faiths to interrogate our readiness to general elections on March 4, 2013.

It is the least we can do as patriotic citizens of motherland Kenya.

(Polycarp Igathe is the Chairman Kenya Association of Manufacturers - KAM)

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