6 February 2013

Kenya: Why We Cleared Party Hoppers - Electoral Commission

Nairobi — The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has defended itself against accusations that it flouted the law in clearing time-barred party hoppers during the recent primaries.

Speaking at a forum with editors at a Nairobi hotel, IEBC vice chairperson Lillian Mahiri said they couldn't bar any politicians who shifted parties after January 18, because Members of Parliament amended the law at the last minute to extend the deadline.

"Immediately the Political Parties Act was passed, political parties had six months to recruit new members and to be registered, going for the nominations. Before they went out - that midnight - the law was changed," she explained.

She explained that IEBC was affected by amendments and decisions made in Parliament especially last minute changes that directly interfered with the commissions plans.

According to Mahiri, MPs have even insulated candidates seeking elective positions from the vetting process which other public officers like judges and commissioners have to go through.

She regretted that MPs who are also public officers do not have to be vetted like other officers.

After the nominations, IEBC was questioned for accepting nomination certificates of candidates who moved to other parties after the January 18 deadline.

The Law Society of Kenya and several other civil society organisations had accused the electoral body of blatantly flouting the law by clearing aspirants who moved to new parties after the nomination deadline.

Meanwhile, Mahiri has indicated that the commission expects to release results of the presidential election 48 hours after polling closes.

She said the commission was working closely with the media to ensure provisional results are continuously released to the public.

"Because of the high tension and high stakes in this election we have to deal with public expectations. We have come up with an order on how we are going to announce the results," she explained, pointing out that the commission will release presidential election results, followed by gubernatorial, senatorial, MPs, women representative and county representative results.

The move is intended to eliminate information gaps that create room for speculation.

She said the frequent updates will also be a strategy for ensuring transparency during Kenya's first election under the new Constitution.

German Ambassador Margit Hellwig-Boette who also interacted with the editors called for support of the IEBC and called upon Kenyans to ensure they vote for their leaders of choice peacefully.

She said Kenyans have an important role of not just waiting upon the authorities to ensure peace but to also conduct themselves in a respective manner that will not cause violence or hatred among the divers communities with diverse political and religious views.

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