, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 1 – The man who is expected to manage the next General Election has ruled out an August date, and is instead urging Kenyans to prepare themselves for a “more practical” December polls date.
Ahmed Isaack Hassan, who has been nominated by President Mwai Kibaki to head the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) told a Parliamentary committee grilling that a December election was more viable bearing in mind all the logistics that would have to be factored in if they were held in August.
Hassan who currently chairs the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), also warned Kenyans against falling for ‘populist’ ideas against altering the election date.
He claimed that he had already sought the guidance of the Attorney General, a former commissioner of the now defunct Committee of Experts and a lawyer who all felt that it was best to hold the elections in December.
“I have actually sought their legal opinion and as far as they are concerned the current Parliament was going to finish its term; but for the avoidance of doubt we are going to the Supreme Court just to get another ruling to satisfy you,” he retorted.
“But the fact of the matter is we cannot hold elections in August,” he stressed.
Hassan who had appeared before the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) to be vetted for the position, was however put to task over the hard stance he had taken.
Committee member John Mbadi (Gwassi) even asked him if he had been influenced to push for a December poll in favour of certain politicians.
“My spirit has been dampened by the reaction of the potential Chairman of this commission when he talks about an election being impossible in August. Yet I have on a number of occasions heard him say that he is ready at any time. So what changed?” asked Mbadi.
However a visibly irritated Hassan maintained that the IIEC would still carry out an August election if the pending Court ruling compelled them to do so. He said that his commission had set the timetable for an August election but realised that it would be rushed.
He explained that there was need to conduct massive voter education in preparation for the polls, which will be the most taxing for Kenyans since independence.
“Mheshiwa Mbadi I have said this time and again that the commission is ready and willing to hold the election in August but Benard Shaw says the mind is like a parachute; it works well if it is open so it’s good to keep an open mind,” he said.
Moreover, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo, who is rooting for a December election, argues that the new electoral body requires four months after being sworn in to delineate 80 new constituencies before any election preparations can be made.
Last month, Kilonzo noted that after the gazettement of the new constituencies, an additional four months would be set aside to settle any arising disputes before voter registration can take place.
“Kenyans will have one month to raise any objections they may have with the new boundaries at the Courts. After that the Judiciary will be given 30 days to determine these disputes and it is only at the end of that period that we can start voter registration,” he explained.
“Now if you calculate all those months, you end up with May or maybe even July before we can start voter registration,” he noted at the time.
Kilonzo further observed that the IEBC would have to set aside about two months for voter registration in addition to one month for Kenyans to inspect the registers.
He added that it was only after the voter registration process was concluded that the procurement of electoral equipment as well as recruitment of electoral officers could take place.
“During the referendum Kenyans had 45 days to register but I doubt whether that will be enough for next year’s elections because we want to mop up all voters in this country and we still have to inspect the registers,” he said.
Isaack was also put to task over emerging concerns about his leadership style with accusations that he was biased. However the concerns about him were not specific and Isaack was unable to fully respond to them.
Other individuals who were grilled for their suitability as IEBC commissioners were Yusuf Nzibo, who was vetted for a record 16 minutes, Joyce Wangai, Mohammed Alawi, Abdullahi Sharawe, Lillian Bokeeye, Thomas Letangule, Albert Bwire and Kule Godana.
Three nominees to the Commission on Administrative Justice were also vetted. Paul Otiende Amolo, who has been nominated for the position of Chairperson, alongside Regina Mwatha and Sadia Abdikadir Mohammed, who have been selected as commissioners, appeared before the CIOC on Tuesday morning.