August Or December? MPs Divided Over Next Elections Date
The extension has been mooted alongside a proposal to amend the constitution to change the date of the General Election from August to December every five years. The two proposals could further fuel the political rivalry between the country’s two leading coalitions; Jubilee and CORD.
IEBC chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan and the 8 commissioners took office on November 9th, 2011 for a non-renewable term of six years.
The next General Election, according to the constitution should be held on August 8th, 2017 just three months before the curtains come down on the tenure of Hassan and his team at the electoral body.
A proposal by Ugenya Member of Parliament David Ochieng to move the 2017 polls date from August to December presents a new dimension on the term of the IEBC commissioners.
“It is not a new Bill, and the wisdom of it is that Kenyans do not want an election to be held in August but December,” said MP Ochieng.
The proposal to move the election date was deliberated on at length during the Parliamentary Leadership Forum held in Mombasa.
Ochieng’s Bill, which has been taken over by the National Assembly’s Legal Affairs Committee, is due for the Second Reading, and must get the support of at least 233 MPs to enforce changes in the constitution on the polls date.
Leader of Majority at the National Assembly Aden Duale argues that the election date and the term of IEBC are inseparable.
“You cannot discuss the election date without talking about the term of IEBC. Whether the elections are held in December or August, you will have to extend the term of the commissioners,” argued Duale.
If the polls were to be held in August 2017 and a presidential contender challenges the outcome at the Supreme Court within 14 days and a repeat of the poll is ordered, there are concerns on who would oversee the exercise since the term of the current IEBC commissioners will have lapsed.
“That is why I am proposing that we buy off the term of the IEBC team, for like 18 months, set up a new IEBC that will conduct the 2017 and 2022 polls. If not, then we extend the term of IEBC by one year,” said MP Ochieng.
But a proposal to extend the term of IEBC commissioners by one year is likely to trigger resistance from CORD. The opposition team has demanded the immediate disbandment of the electoral body, insisting it cannot be trusted as a neutral arbiter in the 2017 General Election. Electoral reforms are at the heart of CORD’s clamour for a referendum to amend the constitution under the Okoa Kenya initiative.
There is also a proposal to stagger the appointment of IEBC commissioners to ensure that their terms do not lapse at the same time.
By Francis Gachuri