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Senate special sitting to debate contentious election law

The sitting called by Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro will being at 10am/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 24 – The Senate will on Wednesday next week hold a special sitting to debate the recently passed Elections (Amendment) Bill.

The sitting called by Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro will being at 10am.

Jubilee legislators in the National Assembly passed the law despite fierce opposition from their counterparts in the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD).

Some of the amendments passed provide for a manual register as an alternative in the instance the biometric system fails.

CORD is opposed to the amendments, saying the electoral laws were as a result of a negotiated agreement among other contentious issues.

At the National Assembly, the debate on the laws was marred by pockets of violence after some legislators exchanged blows.

On Friday, the Jubilee Party defended its decision to call for a back up voters’ register during the 2017 General Election citing examples where biometric voting failed on the African continent.

The head of JP Secretariat Raphael Tuju said the country cannot afford to go to the elections without an alternative system since it can easily result to violence if the system fails or gets manipulated.

A case at hand was Nigeria where the voting exercise through the biometric system suffered extreme hitches “including failing to recognize President Good Luck Jonathan’s Identity, forcing him to wait for 50 odd minutes before the system resumed working.”

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He said the Opposition was being insincere by opposing the recent amendments on the electoral laws, saying the 2013 presidential petition was largely anchored on the failure of the biometric system.

Tuju says by having a manual register alongside the biometric system, Kenyans rights to vote will be secured.

“It is important to recall that the contestation against the victory of the incumbent President soon after the 2013 presidential poll was based partly on some of the issues contained in the amendments to Kenya’s electoral laws made on Thursday, in spite of and despite a determined minority attempt to scuttle the vote,” he said.

“It is important to look at Article 83(3) of the Constitution of Kenya that guarantees the right of all Kenyans to vote and how that right may not be reduced by any legislative comprise or administrative action of the IEBC.”

Tuju said the Jubilee Party was supporting the biometric system but insists on the need of having a back up register since the system can even get manipulated by techies.

“What would be the justification for sending away a voter on the basis of the gadgets not accepting or recognizing fingerprints when the very voter-in flesh and blood- is right in front of the polling clerk with all identification details?” he asked.

“And what if just 10 voters were rejected in politically volatile areas such as Kibera?

If passed by the Senate, it will be for President Uhuru Kenyatta to either assent to the amendments or refer them back to Parliament.

Apart from moving to court in protest, CORD has called for mass action starting January 4.

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