14 January 2013

Kenya: Confusion Ahead of Jan 17 Party Nominations Deadline

Political parties are faced with logistical nightmares which they have to resolve in the next four days if they are to meet the January 18 deadline set by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Jubilee whose presidential candidate is Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga's Cord as well as Musalia Mudavadi's Amani coalition are expected to conduct nominations this Thursday.

The January 17 date was picked by the parties in an attempt to block aspirants who lose in the nominations from decamping to secure the nomination certificates of rival parties.

With the three big parties holding nominations on the same day, the polling centers to be used, possibilities of rigging, potential chaos, whether or not each party will use its party membership register are just some of the challenges the parties face.

The high number of disputes which might arise from the nominations are also likely to overwhelm the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal and IEBC.

Many aspirants, mainly from Cord and Jubilee coalitions, have expressed fears that top officials of the parties are going to favour certain candidates through direct nomination. They are also concerned with the possible tampering of the nomination process to tilt the outcome in favor of their preferred candidates. All parties are expected to conduct their nominations through secret ballot.

Franklin Bett, the ODM National Elections Board chairman said the party had already established tribunals at the county levels to quickly deal with any disputes that might arise at that level.

He said the board at the national level will also address any disputes that might arise to ease the work of the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal.

"The tribunals are meant to ensure that the party clears with any matter quickly," said Bett.

ODM's rival TNA on its part also stated that it is ready for the nominations, and promised the aspirants the exercise will be free and fair.

"We know the task is very enormous and it comes with a lot of responsibility so you must remain above reproach or fear," TNA secretary general Onyango Oloo told the TNA National Elections Board.

On Saturday at during the Jubilee campaign rally at Uhuru Park, Uhuru told his supporters that the coalition will not favour anyone and all those wishing to contest for any seat must face the electorate.

Despite these assurances,concerns about the venues to be used still remain.

ODM had requested the Ministry of Education to close schools on Thursday so that they could be used for the nominations. The closure would also ensure the children were safe in case there was any chaos.

Majority of the public schools are used as voting centers but teachers and parents as well as the Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo are unwilling to let the nominations disrupt the school calendar. The new term started last week with majority of the students reporting to schools by Tuesday.

Yesterday, TNA's Director of Communications Machel Waikenda downplayed the venue concern. "We are not going to have the same polling stations. We are in talks with schools and the list of polling stations is still being prepared," he said.

Bett assured candidates and party supporters that ODM will work with the police to ensure security prevails during the nominations.

He said the party will also work closely with the Ministry of Education to allow the use of schools as nomination centers during the one day exercise.

"The board has appealed to the Inspector General of police service to provide enough security during the exercise. The letters are before the relevant authorities," said Bett.

He warned that aspirants who engage in violent acts or in electoral malpractices will be disqualified.

The IEBC commissioner Muthoni Wangai said school programmes should not be interrupted by the parties' nominations. "The only time the school programme will be interrupted will be on March 4. Even then, the schools will have closed for half term. This interruption will be a small price for the country to pay. It is not necessary to do the same for the primaries," she said.

Wangai warned candidates who are planning to cause chaos during the primaries that the IEBC "has teeth to bite."

"We are monitoring election malpractices from the primaries and if a petition is brought to us where someone fell below the set standards, IEBC would not hesitate to punish the candidates," she said.

Parties are also undecided as to which register they will use during the nominations. Some are contemplating accessing the IEBC register to ensure that only registered voters take part in the primaries. TNA on the other hand has insisted that only their members will be allowed to participate in the exercise.

However given the numerous case of fraudulent registration by all the parties, limiting participation to party members may not be fool proof after all.

ODM has stated that it will use a hybrid system-- universal suffrage in some areas and selected delates in others. The latter method is expected to be applied in electoral areas in Central where branch and sub-branch officials will be the only ones allowed to participate in the nominations.

"The party is ready to hit the road in areas where it will conduct its own nominations. The rules of the game have not changed as we will use both the adult universal suffrage and the delegates system to pick candidates in different areas," said Bett. He said ballot papers and boxes as well as the acquisition of other necessary equipment had already been done.

The Registrar of Political Parties Lucy Ndung'u said there was no law that barred any registered voter from participating in the nominations.

Copyright © 2013 The Star. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.