Kenya keen to avoid pitfall of past poll outcomes

Saturday November 13 2021
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission officials with returning officers at a tallying centre in Nairobi on October 27, 2017. FILE PHOTO | COURTESY


Kenya’s electoral commission, keen to exorcise the ghosts of the nullified presidential election of 2017, is seeking to reassert itself and clear the legal landmines that may compromise the credibility of next year’s polls.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced on Wednesday that it had rejected candidate nomination rules prepared by the 89 political parties in the country for non-compliance with the law.

The political parties were then given 14 days to revise the rules on fair party primaries and allocation of non-elective seats — popular as party lists — failing which they risk being barred from sponsoring candidates for the various elective positions, including the presidency.

None of the parties has publicly protested the commission’s rejection, suggesting most of them intend to comply.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati has in recent days also laid down the law to Cabinet secretaries accused of engaging in partisan political campaigning, saying in a widely reported statement that State officials are expected to be neutral.

He was responding to complaints by the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) against two Cabinet secretaries. The UDA has named Deputy President William Ruto as its presumptive presidential candidate. The party accused the Cabinet secretaries of campaigning for former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is expected to be Dr Ruto’s toughest challenger in the 2022 race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.


Compliance with election laws in preparation for the August 2022 polls has become a major concern for the IEBC following a Supreme Court judgment that overturned President Kenyatta’s re-election in 2017.

The worst of the judges’ criticism was reserved for the IEBC for bungling the results transmission and vote tallying.

Petitioners in the case had also alleged deployment of State resources in President Kenyatta’s re-election campaigns but the judges found no evidence.

Partisan politics

But the commission has to deal with more issues involving races for the other elective posts or the down-ballot races — in the County level to parliament.

A review of the legal issues from the 2017 election by the Carter Centre found that a total of 388 petitions challenging the results of the down-ballot races – for Governor, Senator, Woman Representative, Member of Parliament (National Assembly), Member of County Assembly (MCA), and party nominees — were filed by August 10, 2018. The number of petitions more than doubled from the 188 that were handled by the courts in 2013.

Although only a small number of these petitions resulted in nullifications and by-elections, they left the IEBC with huge legal fees owed to law firms.

Away from the courts, the IEBC may find itself increasingly getting dragged into the partisan political battles between Dr Ruto’s and Mr Odinga’s presidential campaigns.

More recently, the electoral commission stepped on another legal landmine, with High Court and Court Appeal judges faulting it for irregularly vetting endorsement signatures for a proposed constitutional referendum and failing to enroll new voters continuously.

The commission has also appealed the Supreme Court’s Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) judgment, which effectively prohibits it from making any substantive decisions without a quorum of five out of the seven commissioners.