The rocky road of electoral reforms

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BY ANTHONY KAGIRI

Listening to Issack Hassan, the passion he has for the country is unmistakable. Given the history of elections in the country am sure not many would be enthusiastic to take up the role he has so zealously embraced. 

At this level in his career the new job could either catapult him to the peak or send him to the pit of condemnation where Mr Samuel Kivuitu and his fellow commissioners are. Samuel Kivuitu won the hearts of many in the 2002 elections but lost it five years later and was stripped off his honor disgracefully by the very people who put him there, the politicians. Although Hassan is well aware of this fact he is not deterred.

Mr Hassan has his work well cut out, key being fresh voter registration and a new integrity-rich secretariat. His commission’s work will also be crucial in the electoral reforms including setting up structures for the system of governance the country chooses in the new constitution. Their input in the new administrative and electoral boundaries will also be very fundamental.

It is with so much gusto that we pushed out the former commission and much expectation awaits the new team. 

Unfortunately politicians particularly used this to gain political mileage and am worried they will attempt to use this new commission to their advantage as they have always done. The throwing out of Cecil Miller’s name for this job was a clear indication that this purely a political job. And for me this is where Mr Hassan and his team need to remain cautious.

In my opinion the problem with our electoral process is not the presence of dead voters in the register or the unruly supporters or even the officials of the ECK who we vilified. The source of the problem lies within the politicians themselves, and this is what IIEC needs to deal with. 

It is politicians who bribe election officials and voters, hire goons to fight their opponents, compromise agents of their opponents etc. They are the same people who will not accept defeat but would rather violence. Getting a new voter register we will, a credible IT system is also achievable within the two years time frame but dealing with the rogue politicians is quite a milestone.

If we are to clean the mess in our electoral process IIEC must come up with a strategy to deal with politicians. Issack is lucky to come in at a time when the country at the brink of breakdown of institutions is being forced to embrace professionalism. This is what the young lawyer needs to uphold at all time. I was pleased to here him warn that his team will not take directives from any quarters, and I hope this spirit remains. 

The commission must remain what it ought to be, a superior body that sets the pace rather than a foothold for politicians into their political glory. Politicians ought to know that rules and regulations are made to be followed. As much as the code of conduct exists most of us don’t have an idea of what is therein. Hassan and his team should in this era of transparency make public what exactly the code states so that when politicians go out of the way all of us know. The same should be enforced at all times.

The new polls body has Shinyalu ad Bomachoge constituencies as the starting point in this. We want to see a credible voter registration, violence-free campaigns and a transparent election. The code of conduct must be seen to work. We need to see an end to buying and transportation of voters.

The other vital activity the IIEC need to prioritise is civic education. We need to eliminate the tribal factor when it comes to electing leaders. The former ECK, religious organisations and other non-governmental organisations have tried unsuccessfully to eliminate this. It will call for change in tact and strategy. The honors are with IIEC to come up with this.

The city lawyer is at the brink of history making, he comes in at a time the country is looking for men and women of purpose who will stand and make the difference and probably do what many have shied from doing. He’s got the chance to prove it.  

Fair well Hassan I look forward to the end of your term. My prayers are with you and I hope we will have to plead with you to stay into the permanent ECK for your outstanding work.

(Mr Kagiri is a Capital News reporter)

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