IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati will be stripped off his powers as the sole returning officer in a presidential election if Jubilee MPs push through controversial amendments to the Elections Act, 2017.
The MPs also want to scrap the requirement that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman’s qualifications be same as those of a Supreme Court judge, opening a window for any member of the commission to assume the role in Mr Chebukati’s absence.
Through the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017 that was formally introduced in Parliament on Thursday, Jubilee also wants to expand the definition of the position of IEBC chairperson 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 and, in his absence, the vice-chairperson, or such other person acting as the chairperson in the absence of both the chairperson and vice-chairperson,” the Bill states.
Jubilee, through a Bill sponsored by Baringo North MP William Cheptumo, is also seeking to scrap the qualification for the office of the IEBC chairperson.
“A person shall be qualified for appointment as the chairperson if the person holds a degree from a recognised university in public administration, public finance, governance, electoral management, social science or law,” the proposed section says.
Under the current law, the holder office of the IEBC chairperson must be a person who is qualified to be judge of the Supreme Court under the Constitution.
Mr Chebukati is the only lawyer in the seven-member commission with over 15 years’ experience in legal practice.
IEBC vice- chairperson Consolata Nkatha Bucha Maina, Dr Roselyn Kwamboka, Prof Abdi Yakub Guliye, Margaret Wanjala Mwachanya, Boya Molu and Paul Kibiwott Kurgat have no qualification or experience in the practice of law.
“In the absence of the chairperson for any reason, the vice-chairperson shall assume the duties of the chairperson and exercise the powers and responsibilities of the chairperson until such time that another chairperson shall be appointed,” the Bill states.
The Bill also stipulates that in the absence of the chairperson and the vice-chairperson, members of the commission shall elect from amongst themselves one of their number to act as the chairperson and exercise the powers and responsibilities of the chairperson until such a time that a chairperson is appointed.
The Bill reduces the quorum of the commission from five to half of the existing members of the commission provided that the quorum shall not be less than three members.
The proposed Bill, which will be scrutinised by a special committee formed Thursday evening requires a majority of members present and voting to make a decision if a unanimous decision is not reached by the commission.
Mr Cheptumo says the Bill seeks to ensure that that the IEBC transmits electronically and manually tabulated results of a presidential election from a polling station to the constituency tallying centre and to the national tallying centre.
Jubilee has also introduced a separate bill, the Elections Offences, 2017, which imposes a five-year jail term on electoral officers found to have breached the law.
Jubilee marshalled 144 votes against Opposition National Super Alliance’s (Nasa) 53 votes to shorten publication period of the bill from 14 days to one.
Nasa MPs vowed to oppose the bill, saying it is unconstitutional given the 4-2 ruling of the Supreme Court that annulled the August 8 presidential results as “invalid, null and void.”
“Is it in the interest of the public that we reduce the period from 14 to one? That Bill, even if we debate and pass, it will be unconstitutional and is likely to postpone the election from October 26 to unknown date,” constitutional lawyer and Rarieda MP Otiende Amallo said.
The Supreme Court ordered IEBC to conduct a fresh presidential election within 60 days in accordance to the Constitution and election laws.