MPs now move to seal electoral law loophole

MPs have proposed changes to the law on elections to seal legal loopholes that saved Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula.

Friday January 22 2016

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula (centre) addresses the media in Parliament on December 2, 2015. MPs have proposed changes to the law on elections to seal legal loopholes that saved Senator Wetang’ula from being struck off the voters’ roll. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula (centre) addresses the media in Parliament on December 2, 2015. MPs have proposed changes to the law on elections to seal legal loopholes that saved Senator Wetang’ula from being struck off the voters’ roll. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOHN NGIRACHU
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MPs have proposed changes to the law on elections to seal legal loopholes that saved Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula from being struck off the voters’ roll.

Politicians suspected of offences such as treating voters and bribery that Mr Wetang’ula was accused of must be convicted after police investigations before they can be barred from future elections if MPs approve the proposed change to the law.

The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee proposes that a court that handles an election petition would be mandated to send a report to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on whether an offence is likely to have been committed.

(READ: Why IEBC could not strike off Wetang'ula name from voter list)

Once the DPP gets the report, he shall direct an investigation to be carried out by the Inspector-General of Police and after that, prosecute the suspects or close the matter.

If a court finds the suspect guilty of committing an election offence, the person would then be liable for removal from the roll of voters, which would effectively lock them out of elections as a voter or candidate.

LEGAL LOOPHOLE

The amendment removes the legal loophole cited by the committee of the IEBC that scrutinised the case against Mr Wetang’ula and decided against stripping him of the right to participate in an election.

As it is right now, the law allows the judge who handles an election petition to declare that an offence was committed and then inform the DPP, IEBC and either Speaker of Parliament to kick off the process of removing the individual from the register.

The committee appeared to have realised this even before the case against Mr Wetang’ula was heard and determined as its Bill was published late November 2015.

Mr Thomas Letangule, the IEBC commissioner who chaired the committee on Mr Wetang’ula, on Tuesday pointed out the problem with the law.

“As long as it is just pronounced that there is an offence and that offence has not gone through the process of trial and been subjected to evidence, it amounts to hearsay,” Mr Letangule said on Citizen TV on Tuesday night as he explained his committee’s decision.

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