National Assembly Races Against Time to Reform Electoral Processes

In a flurry of late-night sessions, members of the National Assembly are burning the midnight oil to establish a new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ahead of this year’s deadline for the crucial boundaries delimitation exercise. The urgency stems from the imperative to fill vacant parliamentary and ward seats, left void by deaths and court-ordered election nullifications.

The new commission, anticipated to be operational within the next three months, is not only tasked with administering these elections but also with facilitating a national referendum, should cross-party MPs agree to amend constitutional provisions. These amendments would potentially usher in the creation of the positions of Prime Minister and Official Leader of the Opposition.

This legislative push effectively halts the operations of the panel, previously led by Dr. Nelson Makanda and appointed by President William Ruto, tasked with selecting IEBC Commissioners and a chairman. Notable members of this panel include Bethuel Sugut, Novince Euralia Atieno, Charity S. Kisotu, Evans Misati James, Benson Ngugi Njeri, and Fatuma Saman, all of whom are expected to be disbanded.

Recently, the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly tabled the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Amendment Bill 2024. This bill, jointly sponsored by the Majority and Minority leaders, outlines the process for appointing new commissioners and delineating electoral boundaries.

The delay in the boundary delimitation exercise, caused by a dysfunctional electoral commission, prompted MPs to expedite plans to jumpstart the process. The public has until March 21 to submit memoranda to the departmental committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, shaping the direction of the bill.

The Bill is a culmination of efforts by the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO), formed through bipartisan negotiations between the Kenya Kwanza Alliance and the Azimio la Umoja coalition leadership.

According to a statement from the National Assembly clerk Samuel Njoroge, “The memorandum may be forwarded to the clerk of the National Assembly, to be received on or before Thursday 21 March 2024 at 5.00 pm.”

The amendment bill seeks to incorporate recommendations and public feedback from the National dialogue discourse on Electoral Justice and related matters. Notably, it proposes expanding the selection panel from seven to nine members to ensure broader stakeholder representation.

Currently, the IEBC is unable to conduct any business due to the expiration of terms for former commissioners, including chairman Wafula Chebukati. Several commissioners resigned, avoiding facing investigations by the Aggrey Muchelule Tribunal. The Bill proposes a reconstituted panel with representation from various political parties, professional bodies, and religious organizations.

Additionally, the bill outlines the process for the review exercise, including the delimitation of electoral units and the use of the latest official Population census report, which pegs Kenya’s population at 47,564,296 as of 2019.

This legislative endeavor aims to restore confidence in Kenya’s electoral process and ensure transparent, inclusive elections in the future. With the clock ticking, the National Assembly is working diligently to meet critical deadlines and pave the way for a reformed electoral landscape.


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