13 March 2017

Kenya: Law Seeking State Funding for Party Primaries Due in Parliament

Nairobi — A Bill seeking to amend the elections law to compel the State to fund the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to conduct political parties primaries will on Tuesday be formally introduced in the National Assembly.

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill sponsored by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Samuel Chepkonga (Ainabkoi) has been listed for the First Reading in Tuesday's National Assembly Order Paper.

In one of his key amendments, Chepkonga proposes to introduce a new provision to Section 31 of the Elections Act that will provide that; "Parliament will be required to appropriate monies for the effective implementation of this section."

"Where the Commission receives multiple requests, the Commission shall conduct and supervise the nomination of candidates for presidential, parliamentary or county elections for all the requesting political parties: on the same day; in the same polling centres; and in different polling streams for each participating political party," reads the amendment.

This comes days after IEBC backed out of a request by President Kenyatta's Jubilee Party, saying they can only provide technical support, citing budgetary constraints and their heavy workload ahead of the August 8 General Election.

The Commission however agreed to audit the process to ensure it meets set quality standards.

The party will be allowed use IEBC ballot boxes and the Commission will help train clerks, presiding and returning officers.

The Opposition had threatened to move to court to block the move, saying taxpayers' money should not be used for party primaries.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale had vowed that IEBC will conduct the Jubilee Party primaries, regardless of what the Opposition says.

Duale claimed the resources the IEBC will use are provided for in law, have been budgeted for and passed by the House.

The current law states that each political party shall bear the expenses relating to the nomination of candidates to contest in presidential, parliamentary, county governor and county assembly elections and a political party may, at its own expense and on such terms as may be agreed between the party and the Commission, request the IEBC to supervise party nominations of candidates.

Meanwhile, Chepkonga will also be seeking the approval of the National Assembly in clarify when the seat of an MP can be declared vacant.

"... a vacancy in the office of a Member of Parliament shall be deemed to occur on the date of issuance of a notice to the Commission which shall not be later than 21 days from the date of the actual occurrence of the vacancy," he said.

The MPs will also consider an amendment stating the Commission shall, within 90 days from the date of the notice for a General Election, open the register of voters for inspection for a period of at least 30 days or such period as the Commission may consider necessary.

This will have the effect of increasing the time for the Commission, which initially had 60 days from the date of the notice for a General Election to open the principal register of voters for inspection for a period of at least fourteen days or such period as the Commission may consider necessary.

The IEBC is currently cleaning up the voters roll after it suspended continuous voter listing to give the Commission sufficient time to prepare for the voter verification process that is scheduled to commence on May 10.

The poll agency captured 3.7 million new voters during the Mass Voter Registration (MVR) held in February.

Chepkonga also proposes to postpone the requirement that candidates for Member of Parliament and Member of a County Assembly (MCA) should have a university degree.

In his amendment, the Ainabkoi MP proposes Section 22 of the Elections Act, 2011 be amended in subsection (1) by deleting paragraph (b) which provides that; 'in the case of a Member of Parliament, a degree from a university recognised in Kenya; or in the case of MCAs, a degree from a university recognised in Kenya.'

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