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Changes to electoral law too ambiguous, Law Society cautions

LSK President Isaac Okero/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 29 – The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has said the lack of clarity on the complementary voter identification and results transmission system to be used should technology fail as proposed for in the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill threatens the success of next year’s polls.

While making submissions before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, LSK President Isaac Okero faulted the amendments passed by the National Assembly as having fallen short of the clarity required for election laws.

According to LSK, the introduction of Section 44A in amendments passed by the National Assembly which proposes a : “complimentary mechanism for identification of voters and transmission of election results (by the commission) that is simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent,” creates an atmosphere of mistrust since the term “complimentary” has not been defined in the proposed amendment.

“This provision purports to introduce an undefined mechanism other than the integrated electronic electoral system stipulated by Section 44 of the Act to run concurrently with said system with discretion left as to what this mechanism is and when it is to be deployed,” said Okero.

According to Okero, lack of consensus by Members of Parliament as witnessed when the amendments were presented before the National Assembly for consideration last week, was evidence to the level of mistrust that needed to be addressed before the Senate considers amending the law.

“Given our history and the circumstances in which the Bill was passed by the National Assembly, this ambiguity sets the stage for suspicion to arise over the use of a parallel system for voter registration, identification and transmission of election results,” he asserted.

Members of the committee however questioned the stand by LSK which they described as one-sided asking why the society would not give an alternative to provide clarity ion the issues it claimed were ambiguous instead of what appeared to be as a blanket condemnation of the entire amendments.

“As an institution, LSK should be neutral. But when I look at your presentation, you appear to be taking sides on this matter,” said Nominated Senator Fatuma Dullo, sentiments echoed by Murang’a Senator Kembi Gitura. “We would have liked you to give a neutral position on this matter because you are not politician and therefore help this country get a solution.”

Acknowledging that the electronic voter identification system could encounter hitches during its use, Okero insisted that an electronic backup system was ideal to avert a crisis during polls.

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“Ideally, electronic systems need to have electronic backup. These systems are designed to be backed up electronically,” Okero responded.

The LSK promised to give more comprehensive answers on issues raised by members of the committee upon consultations on January 3, with a view to provide alternatives to the current proposals.

The committee is expected to take submissions from other stakeholder including the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), before presenting a report on the floor of the house on January 4 for debate.

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