NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 19 – The search for the next chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) kicked off on Monday, with interviewees laying emphasis on engagement with politicians and political parties as the critical component to holding credible elections.
Former Mombasa Mayor Taib Ali Taib and former Judicial Service Commissioner Florence Mwangangi who were the first to face the IEBC Selection Panel, were categorical that it was going to be an uphill task to restore public confidence in the polls agency without involving the political class.
Mwangangi citied the appointment of Ghana’s electoral chief Charlotte Osei and the steps she took to inspire public confidence in the country’s electoral system as a demonstration of inclusive and transparent electoral process in the West African country.
“From the 2013 elections we learnt that stakeholder engagement is critical. Opaqueness causes a lot of suspicion,” she said while stressing the need for a voter education.
Such that when there was delays in the tallying and announcement of the presidential results in the recently concluded election, Ghanaians were able to give the Commission lee way despite concerns raised by some political parties who alleged that the delay in the release of results was as a result of an attempt to manipulate the figures.
Mwangangi said calm in the Ghanaian was because Osei came out and explained to the nation that the reason for the delay was due to the reliance on only the manual mode of transmission of results to the National Collation Centre in Accra due to the “compromise of the electronic transmission system”.
“If selected to chair the Commission, I would start by educating the general public on matters elections to ensure a credible exercise because, if the public does not trust the body, then it is likely that they will not trust the results,” said the former JSC Commissioner.
Taib ran into some rough waters when a section of the Panel, told him off for hiding behind the law or giving general responses to questions when asked how he would handle the electronic election management and transmission system in the event it fails like was the case in the 2013 polls.
“My coping mechanism is turning to my God and confronting the problem instead of running away from it,” he said in response.
He had earlier told the Panel interviewing him that the proposal to have the elections run electronically was God-sent and will restore public confidence in the electioneering process.
Taib also proposed the need to have the IEBC secretariat undergo a mandatory structural and organizational audit to determine whether its staff has the capacity to discharge their mandate.
“We must clean up our house (IEBC) not by word but by deed, through proper structural and ethical audit. That will indicate who has the capacity and skills to handle a particular task,” said the 2007 Mvita Parliamentary loser.
The former Mombasa Mayor said he had decided to apply for the position in order to protect his family and the people of Kenya.
“The only job in Kenya that I know that guarantees the safety of my family is the chairperson of the IEBC. The IEBC has the potential of a safe and peaceful election at the same time can lead to horrendous violence,” said the former coastal city Mayor.
He recounted how he had been separated from his wife and children as the 2007-2008 post-election violence escalated.
Taib said by applying for the job he was accepting that he would be ‘stepping down financially’ because it does not pay as much as his private practice.
Mwangangi on her part said she considered herself neutral and can withstand pressure from any side of the political divide to remain impartial.
The former JSC Commissioner however, had to jump over a hurdle in the form of an allegation submitted by International Policy Group which claimed she was among Commissioners who received irregular payments while at the JSC.
“I was never paid for a sitting that never took place and I have never been called to appear before Public Accounts Committee,” Mwangangi said in her response.
Taib and Mwangangi are among ten candidates seeking to replace Issack Hassan in heading the electoral body.