The leadership of Cord could be headed for another shock as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) meets this morning, bent on locking out former Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula from contesting in the impending by-election, The People has learnt.
The political future of the former Wetangula was last evening hanging in the balance as inside sources said the electoral commission had compiled enough grounds to lock him out of the by-election, occasioned by his ouster last week through a petition.
IEBC chairman Issack Hassan confirmed to The People last evening that he has summoned his commissioners to a meeting this morning to determine Wetang’ula’s eligibility to participate in future elections, following last week’s High Court ruling that nullified his election as the Bungoma senator.
Hassan said IEBC would issue a detailed statement at the end of the meeting, but did not give details, although The People learnt from other sources that Wetang’ula is in serious trouble. The Commissioners are also expected to discuss whether they should petition the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko to prosecute Wetangula over alleged electoral crimes, as expounded in the court ruling.
The ruling cited, among other irregularities, voter bribery in the run-up to the March 4 elections. Barring the Ford-Kenya leader, who is one of the three co-principals in Cord and Senate Minority Leader, would rattle the coalition, since his two compatriots, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka hold no elective seats.
According to the High Court ruling by Justice Francis Gikonyo that nullified his election, Wetang’ula was found guilty of committing a number of election malpractices which, according to IEBC sources, are now being considered by the electoral body to bar him from participating in future polls in accordance with the new electoral law.
Justice Gikonyo noted that Wetang’ula and former Kanduyi Member of Parliament Alfred Khangati were heavily involved in immense voter bribery, singling out one episode on February 22, 2013 at Red Cross social hall, where an estimated Sh260,000 was said to have been given to clergy members to influence the voting pattern.
Other malpractices, the court noted, included double registration of voters, manipulation of vote tallying and double voting. Gikonyo said the magnitude of the offences was serious in law, though he did not prescribe any disciplinary measures to be taken on the former Bungoma Senator who became the first high-profile politician to lose in a petition, out of over 180 election disputes that were filed after the March 4 elections.
“Where the candidates had themselves been involved in bribery, this is a serious matter which should be dealt with very seriously,” noted Gikonyo in the ruling. According to experts, in the absence of clear direction from the court on how to deal with candidates found guilty of election offences, the law allows IEBC to petition DPP to prosecute such individuals or to bar them from taking part in future elections.
It is from this knowledge that IEBC commissioners meeting to- day are likely to make a decision on whether Wetang’ula’s name will be on the ballot during Bungoma’s by-election. Sources in the IEBC yesterday intimated to The People that IEBC is most likely to bar Wetang’ula from participating in the by-election and request Tobiko to prosecute him over the electoral vices.
The new elections law spells out serious punitive consequences to anyone found guilty of commit- ting any electoral offence, proposing up to six years’ jail term or a maximum fine of Sh1 million, or both. Section 67 1(a) of the Elections Act states: “A person who commits the offence of impersonation, cheating, undue influence or bribery, commits an offence and is liable on conviction, in the cases specified in paragraph (a), to a fine not exceeding one million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six years or to both, and in any other case, to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both.”
Should the IEBC commissioners decide against Wetang’ula, then it would be a great blow to the opposition Cord which would now have its three principals out of the two Houses. Already, the former Prime Minister and Cord leader Raila Odinga is on record blaming unseen hands in petition decisions which he claimed were targeting Cord bigwigs. “They began with me, now they have moved to Wetang’ula.
We shall not be manipulated by anyone. They are targeting the Cord summit, which has myself, Kalonzo and Wetang’ula,” claimed Raila after the ruling. Wetang’ula, who before the nullification of his election was the Minority Leader in the Senate, became the first Senator to lose an an electoral petition.
The petition was filed by former nominated Member of Parliament Musikari Kombo who protested the March poll conduct, saying it was marred by massive irregularities by both IEBC and Wetang’ula. Kombo also told the court his agents were intimidated, denying him a fair chance in the election and further requested for verification of marked registers to ascertain his claims that Wetang’ula had colluded with the electoral body to register people twice, who consequently voted twice.
However, a vote recount in 49 out of 802 polling stations gave Wetang’ula a slim lead, getting 11,601 votes against Kombo’s 10,498. Justice Gikonyo further said a recount revealed multiple irregularities, showing that some people who were not supposed to vote had their names crossed in the principal register. “This was proof that people who were not sup- posed to vote in the elections were allowed to vote,” he said.