The Commission has reached out to Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) to use the sanctity of the pulpit and direct reach to the congregants to rally support for planned Enhanced Continuous Voter Registration (ECVR), which kicks off from October 4 to November 2.
With a target of 6 million new registrations, the Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati has called on the religious organizations to adopt a collective responsibility and ensure Kenya has a peaceful free and fair General Election on August 9, 2022.
“As a Commission, our fidelity is to the law and not to an individual or authority. I want to appeal to you FBOs as our major stakeholders, to extend your support to the Commission for us to extensively undertake a successful General Election slated for 9th August, 2022,” said Chebukati.
The Commission will conduct its planned ECVR from October 4 targeting unregistered voters especially youth 18 years and above, who were not registered in previous exercise and they are in possession of an identity card.
“We must be clear that the only document known in law is the ID for purposes of registration and voting,” the Chairman told FBOs representatives in Nairobi.
However, Mr. Chebukati noted that the management of elections in Kenya has always been a complex undertaking, which follows a five-year cycle of pre-electoral, electoral and post-electoral phases. These phases culminate into five years of planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of various electoral activities within strict legal and administrative timelines.
Since its formation, IEBC has conducted two General Elections and three Presidential Elections. The 2022 General Election will be the third in the series. However, since the 2017 General Election, IEBC has also conducted: 42 By-elections – with 3 more upcoming ones on 15th October and 16th December, 26 for MCAs and 13 for National Assembly and 3 for Senate; all variously occasioned by deaths, resignations or election petitions.
The Chairman underscored the need for collaboration to held the Commission execute its mandate and welcome the appointment of 4 new commissioners, which now makes the Commission to be fully constituted. But he called for other stakeholders including the National Police Service, the Office of the Attorney General, National Cohesion and Integration Commission, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the Communications Authority of Kenya, National Treasury, Parliament and Judiciary to work with IEBC to ensure a free and fair election.
Additionally, the Commission has had to jump several hurdles put in its path in delivering its mandate and Chebukati warned National Assembly against passing electoral laws, which will affect conduct of polls, too close to the General Election.
“Now that we are 10 months to the 2022 election, the electoral laws that complement the Commissions activities should be done by December 2021. But those changes that result in a change to the Electoral Operation Plan (EOP), must be discouraged as they will only serve to interfere with the ongoing preparations for 2022,” he said.
Importantly, Chebukati said the delivery of a free and fair election is dependent, not just on the clarity of IEBC plans, but also on a host of factors as well including availability of budget support and timely exchequer releases. However, that has always been hindered by delays in releasing of funds to the Commission, which in the end interferes with electoral calendar activities and therefore electoral management.
“Electoral management requires continuous and stable resourcing given that it is not a “spot” but cumulative and cascading expenditure exercise. IEBC has endured bad experiences due to budget cuts and delay exchequer releases from the National Treasury.
“It defies logic in this financial year, when most of the advance preparation work is supposed to have been taken – which has substantial financial implications both in terms of the sensitive procurement and actual costs, the National Treasury has arbitrarily slashed the budget from Kshs 40.9 billion to Kshs 26.5 billion,” added the chairman.
Moreover, Chebukati noted that delayed disbursement of funding for elections are responsible for rushed procurement of goods and services at inflated costs as vendors take advantage of the Commission’s urgency to catch up with the electoral cycle.
“Such delayed activities have negatively impacted on deployment of electoral technologies having a deleterious effect on the electoral process,” said Chebukati.
The Commission is also remains significantly challenged by the inadequate technological infrastructure in delivering its electoral mandate. According to the Communications Authority of Kenya. 83.6% of the country has 3G network. However, it is not possible to transmit result forms without 3G network. In 2017 the Commission gazetted 11,155 polling stations out of the 40,883 polling stations as lacking 3G network.
“Although it isn’t the work of the IEBC to develop network infrastructure, the Commission was blamed for lack of network connectivity,” said the Chairman.
Chebukati decried the continuous interference that political parties and candidates have during the electoral cycle despite IEBC having its mandate inscribed in law to be free from such influence.
“Despite these clear provisions, politicians and political parties always try to undermine the independence of the Commission during the elections and engage in false accusations of the Commission and its staff; thereby bending and damaging the image of the Commission well before elections are held.
“This is made worse by another challenge which is ethnicised and divisive politics which make it highly charged and exposes staff and Commissioners to ethnic profiling, making them insecure and susceptible to attacks,” said Chebukati.
Other challenges facing the Commission include inadequate and untimely disbursement of funding. Over the years, the Commission’s funding has not been adequate and in tandem with the electoral cycle activities. The decision to allocate budget and release exchequer to IEBC is at the discretion of the Treasury. This exposes the Commission to risk of state capture.