, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 24 – The Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) has assured that the August 4 referendum will go on as scheduled, despite logistical concerns following Wednesday’s ruling that all prisoners should be registered for the vote.
IIEC Chairman Issack Hassan told journalists on Thursday that the law was clear that only major insecurity can delay the vote but admitted the ruling presents unique logistical and operational challenges.
“An order from the court cannot be a ground to postpone or defer the vote,” he said.
The Interim Independent Dispute Resolution Court ruled on Wednesday that the law does not bar prisoners to vote in a referendum and ordered that the over 50,000 prisoners in 90 prisons be registered. The court urged the commission to cooperate with other relevant government agencies to facilitate the registration.
The court, which exclusively deals with matters arising from the ongoing constitution review process, ordered the IIEC to gazette all the prisons as polling centers and complete the registration within 21 days.
The commission finalised fresh voter registration across the country last month and has opened the registers to for public inspection until July 11.
The electoral body was on Thursday grappling with the challenges of the court order and its implications on the August vote. The Commissioners held consultations with officers from the Prisons Service, the Attorney General and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to explore options of implementation or appealing against the order.
“We will exhaust all avenues; we could either seek the review of that ruling or we will see how we can implement it,” the Chairman said ahead of the meeting.
The commission is expected to announce resolutions from the meeting at a news conference on Friday. Mr Hassan said the IIEC welcomed all reform-oriented measures “only that the new order it too close to the referendum.”
“It is unfortunate that the prisons department was not enjoined in the case. Maybe if they were heard the court would have been properly briefed,” he said.
In the meantime the Association of Professional Societies in East Africa (APSEA) has hailed the ruling and rooted for its implementation. Speaking after a meeting of chairpersons from member organisations, APSEA Chairman Daniel Ichangi said the prisoners should be given the opportunity to participate in the historic moment.
“As the Judiciary is the organ tasked with interpreting the Constitution, its recommendations should be embraced,” he said.
The Association which has endorsed the proposed Constitution has launched an initiative to woo Kenyan professionals to vote Yes in the referendum. Mr Ichangi said they have organised a four-day conference for different categories of professionals to articulate specific benefits they stand to gain from the new law.