, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 21 – The Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) wants direct powers to disqualify candidates engaged in vote buying and bribery.
IIEC Chairman Issack Hassan on Tuesday admitted that the malpractice was common in by-elections and had remained one of the commission’s biggest challenges. Mr Hassan said the commission was hoping the new Elections Bill would help address the perennial vice once and for all.
“The most powerful tool you can give a commission is to allow them to bar a candidate from the elections even on the day of voting,” said the Chairman.
“I am looking forward to a very strong Elections Bill which should be able to level the playing field and give the commission sufficient powers to deal with this issue once and for all. We want to be able to deal with it from the onset without having to rely on the courts.”
He said the commission had learnt crucial lessons from the by-elections and the August 4 referendum, which would help it in drawing recommendations on the pending electoral law.
“What we had in mind last year has changed. We are going to have all the lessons learnt and what we have got from the observers,” he said.
According to the new Constitution, the Bill is one of the urgent legislations that need to be debated and passed by Parliament within a year after the effective date. It seeks to consolidate the various laws governing elections into one.
To be debated alongside this law is the Electoral Commission Bill which will establish a permanent commission to take over from the IIEC whose mandate expires in November.
Vote buying and bribery incidents were reported in the three constituencies that had by-elections on Monday. Mr Hassan told reporters that a number of suspects were arrested by police on the issue and will soon be arraigned in court.
He further disclosed that the Commission would soon organise stakeholders’ fora to seek support of stringent penalties for candidates involved in the vice. The commission, Mr Hassan added, would be seeking stakeholders’ insights on how best to implement the code of conduct.
He accused political parties of doing little to help in the problem.
“Officially they support the commission’s fight against vote buying but you see some of the parties are themselves accused of the vice,” he said.
“They all sign to abide with the code of conduct but that is not translated into practicality.”
The chairman spoke when he received the official results from the by-elections of Makadara, Starehe and Juja Constituencies.