, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 27 – Imagine a situation where one or more of the 210 parliamentary seats falls vacant, like is currently the case in Bomachoge, before the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) is properly constituted.
Or worse off a situation arose that would require fresh presidential elections?
These are some of the concerns being expressed by Kenyans after the dissolution of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) in December following the enactment of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Act 2008. Politicians, lawyers and religious leaders have appealed to President Mwai Kibaki to urgently reconvene Parliament so as to have the IIEC constituted to avert a possible constitutional crisis.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Review Abdikadir Mohammed says: "These are very legitimate concerns particularly if it involves replacing the President. Naming an electoral body in the emerging contest would be a very delicate and tricky affair."
According to the Constitution were the presidential seat to become vacant the Vice President would take office for 90 days after which Presidential elections would be held.
The fears over the possibility were evident on Wednesday last week when President Kibaki’s official helicopter developed a technical problem, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing. With the current disagreement in the PSC over the constitution of the new electoral body one wonders if they could agree on the composition of the new electoral body in time.
But even after the IIEC is constituted, possibly in the coming week, the tasks ahead for the new electoral team would be enormous and it will take time before Bomachoge constituents go to the polls or any national elections can be held.
Before executing any poll, the IIEC team will be expected, among other duties, to conduct fresh registration of voters, as well as the creation of a new voters’ register since the one used in the 2007 polls is no longer valid. The nine-member committee will also develop a modern system for collection, collation and tallying of electoral data, as per the recommendations of South African retired judge Johann Kriegler-led probe committee into the fraudulent 2007 presidential polls.
These are not simple tasks that can be carried out in a few days and Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua insist that “no elections can be conducted before reforms are done in the electoral process in order to institutionalise free and fair polls.”
National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende has termed the current situation as ‘an unprecedented state of affairs’ that calls for urgent action by all the institutions concerned and therefore appealed to all the organs involved in the process of appointing the IIEC commissioners to move with utmost speed and expedite the process required to put the commission in place.
Mr Marende has stated: “The disbandment of ECK without a seamless transition for another organisation to inherit the job of manning elections was a big mistake and has put the country in a very precarious position.”
Although Speaker Marende declared the Bamachoge seat vacant, he could not issue official writs that would have paved the way for a by-election.
The seat has to remain vacant and, hopefully, nothing will happen that will put the country in a position that would threaten its peace.