, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – The Law Society of Kenya says it has over 5,000 lawyers ready to handle petitions that may arise after the general election next month.
LSK chairman Eric Mutua said the advocates are fully prepared to represent aggrieved candidates under the new electoral laws.
“We have worked with the Judiciary to ensure that post-electoral disputes are heard and determined as fast as possible,” Mutua said.
Mutua said that slightly over 5,000 of the 10,000 registered advocates underwent training on the new laws in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Advocates in Nakuru are due to be trained on Friday.
“The CLE trainings entail presentations by Court of Appeal and High Court Judges who are members of the Judiciary Working Committee on Election Preparation,” Mutua said.
The lawyers and members of the Judiciary were trained on The Supreme Court (Presidential Election Petition) Rules 2013 and Election Petition Rules.
“The new rules require that presidential election petitions are heard and determined within 14 days after being filed at the Supreme Court,” Mutua said.
He welcomed a provision in the Elections Act to now enable courts to declare election losers as winners unlike before when they could only order by-elections.
Other disputes that may arise on gubernatorial, senatorial or parliamentary seats must be heard within six months, in line with the constitution.
“Lawyers can now make applications to court to declare a candidate winner after successful election petitions,” Mutua said.
The LSK chairman said that the new rules give lawyers powers to file election petitions on behalf political aspirants and serve respondents via email or media advertisements.
“The law has now changed and it is no longer compulsory to serve an opponent with suit papers in person. Email or newspapers with national circulation will do,” Mutua explained.
“New rules on election petitions stipulate that lawyers would be restricted on applying for injunctions that would drag the cases,” he added.
The Judiciary said during a recent LSK continuing legal education seminar that it anticipates about 500 election petitions out of 1,860 seats contested on March 4.
Amendments to the Election Act introduced pre-trial conferencing for election petitions where judges and advocates would agree in advance on the number of witnesses to be called.
Under pre-trial conferencing, judges and magistrates will ensure lawyers tell them in advance the number of witnesses they intend to call and agree on time to complete the suites.
The amendments which were passed by the 10th Parliament as part of the Statute Miscellaneous Act 2012 states that judges hearing election petitions will not be charged with other responsibilities until they determine cases before them.