Polls boss Chebukati declines to stop aspirants from campaigning

Saturday February 18 2017

Wafula Chebukati

HEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. He says all is well ahead of repeat presidential poll. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cord chief Raila Odinga are free to campaign for the top seat, the elections chief told a presidential aspirant Friday.

Mr Wafula Chebukati, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman, said that there is no law that stops any politician from campaigning.

His comments came after the United Democratic Movement presidential candidate, Mr Philip Murgor, asked the electoral commission to stop President Kenyatta and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, who he said had started campaigns way ahead of the time allowed.

According to the commission’s election guidelines, campaigns should only start after June 28.

Mr Murgor said that allowing the President and his deputy to campaign would pose a legal challenge that could lead to the August 8 General Election results being declared invalid.

Mr Murgor is a former Director of Public Prosecutions.

“The electoral commission must crack the whip immediately and stop all further campaigns until June 28,” Mr Murgor said when he met election officials at the commission’s offices at Anniversary Towers in Nairobi.

However, Mr Chebukati said that legally, their campaign timeline could not bar the two, and indeed anyone else, from campaigning.

“Though according to our timeline the campaign for the August 8 election should start in June, there is no law that bars anyone from campaigning (early).

"As a commission, we have no power to stop anyone from going across the country looking for voters,” he said.

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have both ran aggressive and sustained campaigns, whose tempo was raised during the just-concluded hunt for eligible Kenyans to register as voters.

On Friday, Mr Chebukati also reassured the country that the commission will hold the General Election on August 8 despite the recent court rulings that were feared could disrupt preparations.

Mr Chebukati said the timelines it had set for various activities would not be affected.

According to him, the cancellation of a Sh2.5 billion ballot paper printing tender, the suspension of the audit of the voters’ register and the extension of the one-month mass voter registration by five days, would destabilise the commission’s budget but would not affect timelines, including the election date.

“We have time to do another tender and procure ballot papers. They are some of the last items we get. We have time, the law is there, just follow it and we have as many as five options on this,” Mr Chebukati sad.

He said this when he met former Rarieda MP Raphael Tuju, who led the Jubilee Party secretariat in talks with the election team at the party’s headquarters in Pangani.

“Timelines will not change as has been published. We will have the election on August 8 as is in the Constitution,” Mr Chebukati said.

A judge on Tuesday cancelled the tender that the electoral commission had awarded to Al Ghurair to supply 130 million ballot papers.

The commission warned that the decision will affect its election preparedness.

On the same day, yet another judge ordered a three-day extension of mass voter registration that was to end on February 14 by two days, then later to tomorrow, February 19.

That decision will cost the commission an additional Sh200 million which wasn’t in their budget.

However, a confident Mr Chebukati said that all is well and that Kenyans should not be worried.

“We will be ready to avail the register for verification on May 9. We want to remove cases of dead voters, double registration and double vote transfers.”

Further, Mr Chebukati told the Jubilee team that the commission is going on with an internal clean-up of the voter register after a tender awarded to audit firm KPMG to carry out the audit was cancelled by another court.

Mr Tuju held a two-hour closed-door meeting and presented the commission with a 16-point memorandum that he said Jubilee wanted addressed.

Top on the list was an audit of the voters’ register.

The party said that the cleaning of the register should use the crude death rate a unit used to measure the average rates of deaths, which Mr Tuju said differs from county to county.

“Those counties with the highest number of crude death rates should expect the number of registered voters to plummet when the dead voters are removed,” he said.

Further, the party asked electoral commission to conduct its nominations.

A six-member team with equal number from Jubilee and the commission was formed to discuss the modalities. The team will start meeting on February 28.

“We are interested in the integrity of the voter register and as such, we would like an assurance that the process of audit, verification and certification of the register will be open and within the stipulated legal frameworks,” the party said in its memorandum.

During a joint press conference, Mr Tuju accused the Opposition of “perpetual lies”.

“The only institution that can rig the election is the IEBC,” he said.

“To say that the government is planning to rig cannot happen. Unless the electoral commission decides to go into cahoots with Jubilee to do that. Nasa is perpetuating false impressions that electoral commission is in an unholy alliance with Jubilee. It is wrong.”

Later in the afternoon, Mr Chebukati’s team met Mr Murgor who also presented his memorandum — a three-page document — in which he accused the commission of bias for holding talks with the two big coalitions while leaving the “smaller parties”.