Jubilee Alliance has told the Opposition it will support its move to have 2017’s and subsequent elections moved from August to December, on condition it reciprocates by backing its push for the tenure of current commissioners of the national electoral body extended by six months.
Raila Odinga’s Coalition for Reforms and Democracy wanted the constitutionally- set election date moved to December but at the same time did not want the tenure of the current Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s team, led by Issack Hassan, which expires shortly, extended till after the 2017 elections.
By pushing for the date to move to December, the Opposition expected that it would have simultaneously managed to get rid of the team it blames for its woes in the 2013 election. But on Tuesday it turned out Jubileehad a message for Raila’s team; you can’t have your cake and eat it.
Majority Leader Aden Duale argued that the move by Orange Democratic Movement’s MP David Ochieng (Ugenya) to change the election date from the ‘second Tuesday of August’, to the ‘second Monday of December’, would throw the country into a crisis in the next election.
The six-year tenure of IEBC commissioners expires on November 9, 2017, three months after the scheduled date for the next General Election.
“The bill will be coming for the first reading when we resume next week. If we have to change the date, we must also find a way to extend the life of IEBC for another six to eight months for the commission to conclude elections and handle the petitions,” Duale said in an interview with The Standard.
His stance throws wide open the fate of Ochieng’s Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill that has not yet been brought to the floor of the House.
It means the bill may have to be amended to have a clause to extend IEBC’s, a hot issue that could easily split the House along the fault lines of the political divide.
The weight of the Jubilee move lies in the fact that Duale is a leading voice of the President’s alliance and is a senior and influential member of Deputy President William Ruto’s United Republican Party, an affiliate ofJubilee. Ochieng’s move on the other hand has the blessings of CORD.
CORD has consistently demanded that the current electoral commissioners be sent home, claiming they bungled the March 2013 presidential elections in which Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner, beating CORD’s Raila.
A CORD activist at one point submitted a petition to the National Assembly seeking the removal of IEBC officials on grounds of violating the Constitution but the House Justice and Legal Affairs committee dismissed it.
Yesterday, the Ugenya MP said the IEBC team’s term ought to be handled differently, with the push to change the election date. He argued that “the bill was very clear” that the elections in August would interfere with the budget process, the school calendar, national exams, and if it happens it could lead to low voter turn-out.
“This bill does not target IEBC. If it had anything to do with the commission, ODM has ways of dealing with it. After all, the bill was approved for publication unanimously by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee. That committee has 29 members from both sides. They knew what they were doing,” Ochieng’ told The Standard in an interview yesterday.
The ODM solution is the on-going Okoa Kenya referendum campaign to kick the current commissioners out of office for allegedly mismanaging the last poll.
The consequence of his bill is that MPs, whose term expires on the date of the next General Election, will spend five more months in office – a prospect the bulk of the 349 lawmakers in Parliament would relish.
But for Duale, who “personally wants elections in August 2017”, IEBC’s term cannot be delinked from the proposed shift of the election date.
If he makes good his threat to introduce the changes on IEBC’s tenure, it will complicate the bill because it will need to be taken for a referendum for it to become law.
“I have seen that the bill has been published. When it goes for second reading, we shall raise all the questions. It is not a small matter. It concerns all 42 million Kenyans. It is not a walk in the park for Parliament,” said the Majority Leader.
His view is that a new body, barely a month in office, cannot run an election of 349 MPs, 47 senators, 47 woman representatives and 47 governors.
The election of Members of the County Assembly is another complication because according to article 177 of the Constitution, they have to be picked on the same day as MPs – the second Tuesday of August – but then the same clause gives county assemblies a term of five years.
Ochieng’ said that was “a drafting anomaly” that would be cured as soon as the new poll date was approved.
“We will talk to MCAs about it because there is no way we can have everyone else elected on the same day except MCAs,” he went on.
The National Assembly resumes next Tuesday and Ochieng’s bill is top on the list of new bills.