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Jubilee, Cord leaders strike deal on how to hire new IEBC bosses

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Members of the Joint Select Committee, from right, Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi, Siaya Senator James Orengo (second right) and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr. with IEBC chairman Issack Hassan (centre) at Parliament Buildings

Members of the Joint Select Committee, from right, Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi, Siaya Senator James Orengo (second right) and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr. with IEBC chairman Issack Hassan (centre) at Parliament Buildings

A series of phone calls to the leaders of the two major coalitions throughout the day led to Wednesday’s breakthrough in the team discussing electoral reforms meant to make the 2017 General Election free, fair and credible.

At the end of the day, both Jubilee and Cord leaders had to make concessions from the positions they had taken on Tuesday evening grandstanding that had nearly resulted in a deadlock during the talks at Windsor Golf Hotel in Nairobi.

On the Jubilee side, the team leader, Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen stayed in contact with President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

(Read: Lawmakers’ team hits impasse on poll reform)

Cord team leader Senator James Orengo, Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed also kept in constant touch with Cord leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula.

‘FEAR OF FAILURE’

One of the MPs described the motivation for the legislators as “the fear of failure”. He said the horse-trading was key to unlocking the stalemate.

When the news broke last evening, Mr Mohammed refuted the claim that a deal had been struck and tweeted: “There is no deal in the committee. All contentious issues postponed to tomorrow. The media should quote their sources if there was a deal.”

His colleagues, however, asked not to be named as they were not the committee’s spokesmen and insisted there was an informal agreement awaiting formalisation by the experts on both sides.

“The experts are working overnight to frame them as formal documents, together with the draft Bills and minutes for adoption tomorrow,” said one lawmaker.

The MPs were accompanied at the talks by their selected experts: former Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution member Kamotho Waiganjo and Moi University Law lecturer Vincent Mutai for Jubilee and constitutional lawyer Wachira Maina and former Committee of Experts on the Constitution member Bobby Mkangi for Cord.

The team also called in a team of experts on Information Communication Technology — two from each side and three from the IEBC — to advise them on how to create a seamless interface between voter registration, identification and results transmission.

The committee was expected to table its report in both Houses on Thursday, ahead of Friday’s deadline, but that is unlikely to happen because the secretariat will work on the documents tomorrow and have the report ready by next Tuesday.

A member of the team said the lawmakers are likely meet the IEBC commissioners, the attorney-general and National Treasury bosses on Friday to work out the details of the negotiated settlement for the election officials to leave office.

In the discussions, the Opposition was reported to have walked away from its hard-line position on the voters’ register and agreed to have the current one retained as long as it is subjected to a thorough audit as part of a cleaning up.

The register will undergo what lawmakers at the talks described as a “special technical audit” to be undertaken by an audit firm of international repute and one other body with international expertise on electoral matters.

Cord also acceded to the Jubilee Coalition’s position that the next IEBC team cannot be nominated by political parties. Instead, members of the committee were reported to have agreed that the next commission will be recruited by a panel of nine.

The panel will have one member each from the Catholic Church, the National Council of Churches of Kenya, the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, the Hindu Council and the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, the Law Society of Kenya and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, with the Parliamentary Service Commission nominating two members who are not legislators.

Like in the previous recruitment, the Public Service Commission will provide the secretariat — the support staff for the recruitment panel.

Jubilee dropped its position on having no changes to the Constitution but maintained that the period for the determination of a presidential election petition would be kept at the current 14 days stated in the Constitution.

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