, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 8 – The Elections Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and Elections Offences Bill now await Presidential Assent after the Senate approved them without any amendments.
House Majority Leader Kindiki Kithure (Tharaka-Nithi) and his Deputy Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo-Marakwet) said the proposed law barring party-hopping is constitutional saying it will ensure tolerance and loyalty in party politics.
“The country is waiting for these laws in place. The election calendar is already suffering, in fact I spoke to the CEO of the IEBC yesterday and they are very worried that we may need to act a little faster so that they can deliver credible elections, which every person in the country craves for,” Kindiki stated.
Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale stated this was a significant step toward political maturity of the country, adding that it was important to ensure that all parties are respected and that candidates accept the end results of polls.
The Bills are a product of a 14-member Joint House Select Committee on Electoral Reforms co-chaired by Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi and his Siaya counterpart James Orengo following sustained public demonstration by CORD, which accused the outgoing IEBC Commissioners of bias.
Among the Elections Laws (Amendment) Bill significant provisions is the placing of restrictions on changing parties close to the elections.
The MPs amended Section 6 of the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission Act 2011 that sets out qualifications for appointment as chairperson or member of the commission.
“The Bill seeks to amend Section 6 of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act, 2011 to remove the requirement that commissioners be citizens of Kenya,” Clause 32 of the Bill states.
The MPs at the same time retained the requirement that public officers who intend to contest the August 2017 General Election must resign from public office six months before the date of the election.
The Joint House Select Committee also made changes to the IEBC Act to provide for other modes of vacation from office of members of the commission including death and resignation from office since this was not covered under the law.
“The office of the chairperson or a member of the commission shall become vacant if the holder dies, resigns from office in writing addressed to the President or is removed from office under any of the circumstances specified under Article 251 and Chapter Six of the Constitution,” the Bill states.
The Bill requires the President to publish a notice of a vacancy in the Kenya Gazette within seven days of occurrence of such a vacancy in the IEBC.
The Bill stipulates that the replacement of the chairperson or member of the commission shall commence at least six months before the lapse of the term of the chairperson or member of the commission.
The Elections Offences Bill, 2016 contains radical proposals which seek to consolidate the crimes relating to elections into one act to enhance the administration of polls.
Under the proposed law, candidates found guilty of voter bribery or intimidation will be fined Sh2 million or a jail term of six years.
The same penalty will be effected on individuals who induce others to agree to be nominated as a candidate, to refrain from becoming a candidate or to withdraw their candidature if they have been chosen.
Politicians who use public officers to force any person to back a candidate or a political party will face a fine of Sh10 million or a six-year jail term.
The Bill proposes a Sh1 million fine or a six-year jail term for employers who will not give employees reasonable time to participate in elections.