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More time needed for Kenya mini polls

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 8 – Despite the gazzettement of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) it is unlikely that by-elections in Bomachoge and Shinyalu constituencies will happen any time soon.

Newly appointed Commission Chairman Issack Hassan said on Friday that this is because the commission has to unravel the puzzle of getting a new voters’ register before the polls can be conducted.

As it stands, the country has no voter register, after the old one was abolished following the disbandment of the disgraced Electoral Commission of Kenya.

“The commission will sit down and very carefully consider whether to conduct the registration and then the by-elections or we will use the old register and have it cleaned up. We hope the Speaker can give us some time to settle down before issuing the writs,” an upbeat Mr Hassan said.

He however acknowledged that using the old register could bring legal hurdles, but added that waiting for the new registration could take quite some time.

“Kenyans have lost faith and confidence in the register and going back will make us seem like we are perpetuating the old problem,” he said.

President Mwai Kibaki appointed the nine members of the IIEC on Thursday following Parliament’s approval last month after keen vetting.

The new team replaced the old polls body that was castigated for presiding over a flawed 2007 elections that led to the results’ dispute.

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The Independent Review Commission that probed the polls recommended the reconstitution of a new register saying that about 1.2 million dead voters existed in the records.

The new team faces the hurdle of overseeing electoral reforms in the country and restoring public confidence within two years. Together with the Interim Boundary Review Commission, the polls team will also help institute new electoral boundaries.

Mr Hassan, a 39-year-old city lawyer is however upbeat that the new body would eventually come up with a new register and rebuild public confidence in a free and fair election.

“Kenyans expect us to be different from the previous Commission. We will try and be very transparent, very accountable and we will not allow ourselves to be guided by instructions from any quarters, because we are an independent body,” he said.

The Commission will need to hire new staff after the more than 600 employees were redeployed. Mr Hassan has even hinted that they could consider rehiring former staff, especially to retain institutional history.

“We have to look at the opportunity cost. We might need to consult the old commissioners probably in an informal way,” he said.

Mr Hassan expressed that the Commission would also prioritise a modern Information Technology system.

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