NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 16 – The High Court will Thursday afternoon make a ruling on an application by activist Okiya Omtatah seeking to have the Mass Voter Registration exercise closed two months to the General Election.
In his submissions, Omtatah contends that according to the Constitution, the termination of voter registration must be on May 7, two months before the polls.
He further argued that the timelines issued by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission “are arbitrary and anchored on unreasonable thinking.”
“The timelines given by the electoral body are very unreasonable and should not be used as an excuse to stop the registration of voters,” he stated.
He indicated that the IEBC should also not use the pretext that it will be expensive to continue conducting the exercise and accused it of lack of proper planning.
“An argument that may be brought up by the first respondent is that it will be expensive to undertake the exercise further. However, your honor, the court should not be fooled because IEBC did not plan itself effectively,” he stated. “They did not plan effectively as the funds are there.”
His sentiments were echoed by the lawyer for the Bado Mapambano Trust, Robert Asembo, who indicated that by stopping the Mass Voter Registration IEBC will be denying Kenyans their rights.
The electoral body’s lawyer Eric Gumbo however indicated that the fact that the MVR was stopped did not mean that continuous voter registration will not go on at constituency level.
“The IEBC did the first phase of Mass Voter Registration. This did not stop the continuous voter registration which has been ongoing,” he said. “The initiative to have Mass Voter Registration was a proactive move by the IEBC to encourage people register as voters. The IEBC can only do so much.”
He stated that any change in the timelines set has far-reaching implication which would also be very expensive to the taxpayer.
He explained that the processes that go into the register must be accurate and accountable and this requires time.
He further indicated that free and fair elections should be administered in an accountable and transparent manner.
He further said that should the process be extended, then Parliament would once again have to approve a budget which will take time and interrupt the electoral process.
He also stressed that IEBC is independent and should not be subject to direction from any other arm of government.
Omtatah had further asked the court to compel the IEBC to register voters using birth certificates and expired passports since many eligible voters had been unable to register for lack of IDs.
He wants the court to declare that a single database of citizens should be used to transact all affairs affecting Kenyans.
According to him, separate registrations for examinations, Identity Cards, Kenya Revenue Authority PIN numbers and passports are unreasonable and a waste of public funds.