The Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord) was dealt a blow in the Makueni senatorial by-election after its candidate was barred from the race because she is not a registered voter.
The decision by the three-member electoral commission dispute resolution tribunal to lock out Ms Kethi Kilonzo further fuelled the political rivalry between Cord and Jubilee Coalitions, with the former vowing to immediately file a petition at the High Court to challenge the ruling.
Commissioners Thomas Letangule, Yusuf Nzibo and Mohammed Alawi ruled that Cord’s candidate for the July 22 by-election was not qualified to contest the seat since she is not a validly registered voter.
The tribunal, however, gave the Jubilee coalition candidate Prof Philip Kaloki the go ahead to contest the seat by dismissing a petition that challenged his nomination on grounds that he was a member of two political parties.
In their ruling against Ms Kilonzo, the tribunal said that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission witnesses were consistent in their testimonies that her name could not be traced anywhere in their registers.
“The candidate’s name does not appear in the electoral commission’s registers or in the green book which is the primary data entry. We find that she was irregularly issued with the nomination certificate and direct that it be revoked,” ruled the tribunal.
If Ms Kilonzo lied under oath, then she will likely get in trouble with the Law Society of Kenya. Her situation is further complicated by the allegation that the slip she presented was stolen. But the commission too will face tough questions regarding the security of its documents and integrity of its processes.
On Monday, Cord lawyers questioned why the tribunal disqualified Ms Kilonzo while at the same time dismissed the petition against Prof Kaloki.
The coalition’s and Ms Kilonzo lawyers vowed to challenge the decision at the High Court, terming it biased and warned the Jubilee Coalition not to celebrate yet since the battle was not over.
“We will immediately challenge the decision at the High Court to interrogate the circumstances under which the tribunal arrived at its decision. Jubilee should not celebrate because we will do everything to ensure they do not get the Makueni seat,” said lawyer Tom Kajwang’ who is also the MP for Ruaraka.
While clearing Prof Kaloki to vie on a Narc ticket under the Jubilee coalition, the tribunal ruled that there was no evidence that he was a member of two political parties at the time he was given the nomination certificate.
According to the tribunal, the complainants against Prof Kaloki provided no evidence to support their claims apart from two letters they wrote to the registrar of political parties concerning Prof Kaloki’s membership to a political party.
The People’s Party of Kenya had claimed that the Makueni County returning officer irregularly cleared Prof Kaloki when he was a member of both Narc and United Republican Party.
“The allegations are discounted by information from the two parties and the registrar and we have no reason to doubt their responses. In that case, we find that his nomination was valid and dismiss the application,” ruled the tribunal.
In their ruling against Ms Kilonzo, the commissioners said that the acknowledgment slip Ms Kilonzo presented to the Makueni returning officer did not have the legal weight as a national identity card to enable her register.
In any event, they ruled that Ms Kilonzo was inconsistent in explaining the circumstances under which she got the acknowledgment slip and dismissed allegations by her lawyers that the ballot box containing the green book with her registration information had been tampered with by the National Security Intelligence Service.
“It was upon the candidate to verify if she was registered when the IEBC opened a window for verification. If she didn’t then she cannot blame the commission for her missing name in any of the registers,” said the tribunal.
According to the commissioners, Ms Kilonzo failed to prove her registration status, adding that she was inconsistent in her testimony and did not appear to know the physical location of the registration centre where she claims to have registered.
They ruled that they were satisfied by IEBC’s explanation that the booklet in which Ms Kilonzo’s acknowledgment slip was plucked had been stolen and directed the commission to immediately start investigations on how the booklet got lost.
The tribunal disagreed with the Makueni returning officer for clearing Ms Kilonzo based on the strength of the acknowledgement slip, but absolved him of any blame, ruling that the document cannot be official proof that one is a registered voter and qualifies to run for an elective post.
In the event that Ms Kilonzo will not succeed in persuading the High Court to overturn the decision, her dreams of succeeding her father, the late Mutula Kilonzo, will have come to an end.
The petition against her candidature was filed by former assistant minister Agnes Ndetei and the Peoples Party of Kenya through its secretary-general Mr John Kuria. The two argued that Ms Kilonzo was not a registered voter and was not qualified to vie for the seat.