NAIROBI, September 17 – After six months of public inquiry, Justice Johann Kriegler’s Commission has recommended the creation of a totally new electoral commission, comprised of a lean summit and a team of professionals manning the secretariat.,
In a 117-page report presented to President Mwai Kibaki on Wednesday, Kriegler’s team called for the reduction of commissioners ‘to such a number as are functionally able to do the work’.
“Greater, if not all, implementation responsibility should be delegated to the secretariat while greater, if not all, policy-making responsibility should remain with the commission,’ reads a section of the report.
The Independent Review Commission (IREC) also proposed that the (electoral) Commission’s Secretary, who would act as the Chief Executive Officer, be an experienced elections manager, competitively recruited and ranked as a Permanent Secretary. The appointment of the commissioners, it adds, must be a broad consultative process de-linked from the executive with the expiry of their terms re-organised to ensure that it does not coincide with the elections.
“Make ECK accountable to Parliament without prejudice to its status as an independent body, by reviewing the channels by which it establishes and seeks approval for its budgetary requests,” the report further advises.
According to IREC, the electoral crisis in Kenya was fundamentally due to a systemic dysfunction of the entire electoral system, the extreme weakness of the ECK, and undesirable electoral conduct of all participants, including the voters.
The team identified enormous irregularities and misconduct in last year’s polls which they noted contributed to the erosion of public faith with the electoral body. The report singled out widespread bribery, intimidation and ballot staffing which were compounded by defective data tabulation, transmission and tallying as what impaired the integrity of the process.
Use of public resources for campaigns, participation by public servants, hate speeches and ethnic sentiments were listed as key malpractices. It further noted that parties organised marauding gangs and bully-boys to “zone” regions and intimidate opponents.
To cleanse the system, the report outlines key institutional and legal reforms, top on the list being that all laws relating to the operational management of elections be consolidated into one statute. The team said that an Electoral Tribunal with the final jurisdiction to handle electoral disputes be established, and a limit of not more than six months of finalising election petitions be entrenched into law.
Besides providing the ECK with prosecutorial powers, the report calls upon the Attorney General to appoint public prosecutors. It also calls for the establishment of a liaison committee comprising electoral officials and representatives of political parties as a first step to the enactment of stringent nomination rules.
The report recommends that ‘a media and elections policy’ be developed which will, among other things, set out guidelines for verifying election results before they are announced by the media. It should also include a substantive Act prohibiting hate speech.
The Media Council of Kenya, it adds, should oversee the conduct of media and properly enforce its code of conduct. The report also wants media houses to recruit professional editors, reporters and talk show hosts.
Civil society and local observers (training):
Here the report recommends a partnership between the ECK and civil society organisations on voter education. A permanent domestic observer group should be constituted comprising diverse civil society groups with observers identified and accredited at least six months prior to the elections.
Bodies which are established to have acted in a partisan manner in a previous poll should be excluded from participating.
The IREC report also calls for long term investments in voter and civic education, proposing that it be entrenched in the elementary teaching in schools.
Constituency boundaries and voter registration:
The Kriegler Commission says voters’ cards should be abolished, and Identity Cards integrated into the polling documents “so that anyone with an ID card is automatically registered as a voter and informed of his/her polling station.” The black book too should also be axed, according to the report.
To resolve the outcry of densely populated constituencies, Kriegler calls for the establishment of a Boundary Review Commission to periodically evaluate the territorial boundaries based on the equality of the vote as opposed to the principle that they should be clearly defined in law.
“Equality of voting strength should be aimed at in all cases, although in rare specially justified circumstances a five to 20 percent deviation range could be accepted.”
Temporary poll officers:
It recommends that the ECK outsource the selection of the Returning Officers, Presiding Officers and polling clerks who, among others, should be computer literate. Training of these staff should also be enhanced to match their importance in the electoral process.
So as to eliminate the irregularities the Kriegler team proposes a computerised data entry and tallying at constituencies and simultaneous transmission of the individual polling station results to the national tallying centre.
“Media houses should be given full access of the new system which will assist the media in obtaining fully reliable results at high speed to ensure that ECK is in the driver’s seat,” the report said.
President Mwai Kibaki said the Kriegler report would be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting, after which a sessional paper on its implementation would be prepared for debate in Parliament.