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Economy

Legislators greenlight contentious changes to Kenya's election laws

Parliament in session. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Parliament in session. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

MPs have approved the controversial Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017 that seeks to strip electoral agency chairman, Wafula Chebukati, of his role as the sole returning officer of the presidential election.

Jubilee MPs in the National Assembly unanimously approved the Bill that also opens the door for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to use the manual system in transmitting election results for the repeat presidential election slated for October 26 in the event electronic systems fail.

The Bill seeks to ensure that that the IEBC transmits electronically and manually the tabulated results of a presidential election from a polling station to the constituency tallying centre and to the national tallying centre.

The MPs, however, deleted a section that would have restricted the winner of an annulled presidential election and the petitioner from contesting in a rerun.

This now leaves the door open for any candidate who participated in the August 8 annulled presidential election to contest in the October 26 fresh election.

The MPs approved the changes during the third and final stage the Bill, which now heads to the Senate for concurrence before being forwarded to the President for assent.

The Senate is expected to debate the Bill this (Wednesday) afternoon.

NASA absent

The Bill was passed in the absence of Opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) which de-whipped its MPs from House business and committee proceedings until after the repeat presidential election.

Jubilee MPs, however, dropped a section in the Bill that seeks to scrap the requirement that one has to have qualification of a Supreme Court judge to be the chairperson of IEBC.

The committee retained the requirement that one has to possess 15 years qualification as a lawyer to be appointed chair of the polls body.

The proposed change to the existing law on the qualification of IEBC chairman would have opened a window for any member of the Commission to assume the office of Mr Chebukati in his absence.

The Bill expands the definition of the position of the chairperson of IEBC to include the vice chairperson and any other commissioner in the absence of the two.

“Chairperson” means the chairperson of the Commission appointed in accordance with Article 250 (2) of the Constitution or the vice-chairperson or a Member of the Commission when discharging the functions of the chairperson,” the Bill states.

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