October 23rd 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

CORD wins round one, blocking amendments to electoral laws

At the centre of the disputes was the proposal by the Justice Committee led by Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkong’a to amend the Elections Act and provide for a manual backup system for the voting, transmission and tallying of election results.

By Phillip MuleeTuesday, 20 Dec 2016 20:26 EAT

Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo protests at Parliament early today. (Photo: Courtesy/The Standard).

Opposition lawmakers today blocked amendments to a set of electoral laws that had been earlier agreed on by a bipartisan House committee and endorsed by the government and opposition coalitions. CORD MPs paralysed business for most of the day and broke out in dances and celebration just after 8pm tonight after successfully frustrating the amendments moved by Jubilee MPs.

It was a rare victory for the minority side that would ensure that Kenya goes into the 2017 elections with a semblance of electoral reforms at the core of which is the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. Parliament had been under cordon by the paramilitary General Service Unit as the government deployed all resources to ensure the passage of the amendments.

The opposition legislators frustrated attempts by their Jubilee colleagues to debate and endorse amendments to several Acts. The House was at a stand-still for most of the day as the MPs from the political divide argued on procedural matters on the way forward. There was confusion as CORD MPs accused Jubilee of using unprocedural methods when Leader of Majority Aden Duale proposed that the House session proceeds without adjourning at 6.30pm as is always the procedure.

The business of the House had remained paralyzed from 9.30am up to 12.30pm after CORD MPs blocked Speaker Justin Muturi from entering the chambers. The MPs blocked Mr Muturi from accessing the chambers, saying the 9.30am sitting was illegal since their House leadership had not been consulted.

They vowed to stay put until Mr Muturi consults their leaders in the House dominated by the ruling Jubilee Alliance. “We will not allow Jubilee to sneak in the Mace (the House's symbol of authority). The only sitting that can now be properly constituted is the one at 2.30”, MPs shouted as they blocked the doors to the chambers.

The MPs’ blockade forced Mr Muturi to retreat and hold an emergency meeting with the House leadership on the row. Majority Leader Duale also held a closed-door meeting with Jubilee and CORD MPs at the dining room that involved a presentation from the IEBC to convince lawmakers of the need for the proposed amendments

During the heated debate, the Mace became the most protected asset of the House with a guard on each side. There was a heavy police presence at Parliament Buildings, with officers blocking cars from passing through Parliament Road. Rival MPs fought over proposed amendments to the Elections (Amended) Act and other elections regulations.

At the centre of the disputes was the proposal by the Justice Committee led by Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkong’a to amend the Elections Act and provide for a manual backup system for the voting, transmission and tallying of election results. The new subsection 14b(1) reads: “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 39 and 44, the (electoral) commission shall put in place a complementary mechanism for identification and transmission of election results that is simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent to ensure that the Commission complies with Article 38 (2) and (3) of the Constitution.”

The proposed amendment goes ahead to provide that if technology fails, the manual system shall be used to identify voters and transmit results. In subsection 14b(2), it proposes: “The commission shall use the complementary mechanism referred to in sub-section (1) for identification and transmission of election results only where the technology initially deployed fails.”

Other areas of concern with the amendments is the increase of the number of voters in a polling station from 500 to 700, removal of education qualifications for aspirants and the deadline for compliance with the Campaign Financing Act.

Jubilee can set another special session for the House to debate the amendments before January 24 when the House is scheduled to resume.

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