Kenyans are evenly divided over whether the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has the capacity to carry out free and fair elections in 2017.
However, they do not support calls by the Opposition to hold street protests to force the commission out of office, a new study has shown.
The survey, commissioned by the Nation and conducted by Consumer Insight, shows that nearly half of all Kenyans who are eligible to vote (44 per cent) believe that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), as currently constituted, would not be a fair electoral referee because it is corrupt and inept.
However, another 43 per cent believe the IEBC can competently conduct the elections. The remaining 13 per cent do not have any position on the matter.
Respondents who said they have no faith in the IEBC said it had opened its doors to political meddling and, as a result, conducted the 2013 elections poorly.
Their view is that the commissioners should vacate office.
Despite these concerns, however, most Kenyans do not support calls by Cord to demonstrate and picket as a way of removing IEBC commissioners from office. Instead, they prefer dialogue.
The Opposition, through Cord, has called for a series of protests at IEBC offices countrywide Monday, saying corruption and mismanagement allegations against the commission have tainted its image.
Cord leaders also want the nine commissioners to be forced out of office.
However, seven out of 10 Kenyans disagree with Cord’s position on how to reform the IEBC, according to the survey conducted between May 12 and 14.
Instead, they say they want both Jubilee and Cord to meet and negotiate a way forward. The survey interviewed 1,035 respondents from across the country.
Of these, 534 were men and 501 were women.
ONLY THROUGH THE CONSTITUTION
On Tuesday last week, Cord leader Raila Odinga called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to initiate a dialogue with all stakeholders with a view to reconstituting the electoral commission.
He then sent out a formal letter to State House over the matter.
“Cord is committed to entering into a dialogue on the way forward to establish and reconstitute the IEBC. The discussions should be open to all stakeholders, including civil society and other non-State actors,” said Mr Odinga.
A day later, Deputy President William Ruto, speaking in Gatundu, said the government was ready to engage the Opposition but clarified that such talks would only be guided by the constitutional process of removing the electoral commission from office.
“We are ready and willing to engage in talks,” said Mr Ruto. “We want a coherent, logical and legal way to resolve any issue. We cannot resolve our problems through threats and intimidation. We have a Constitution that we should abide by.”
According to the latest survey, 22 per cent of respondents said civil society representatives and religious leaders should be invited to mediate an agreement between Cord and Jubilee, while another 21 per cent said IEBC commissioners should voluntarily resign.
A smaller group (nine per cent) said international organisations should be called in to solve the stalemate while 11 per cent said no changes should be made to the IEBC.
Only three per cent of Kenyans supported Cord’s threats to boycott the 2017 elections should there be no changes to the IEBC.
On Sunday, Mr Ruto, speaking in Lari, Kiambu County, asked the Opposition to practice the “politics of maturity” and observe the rule of law, saying recent anti-IEBC protests indicated the lawlessness permeating Cord.
“The Constitution is clear on how to resolve our issues but they have decided to choose the path of demonstration and destruction of property,” he said.
However, Cord has maintained that the IEBC has lost credibility, and, after numerous calls for the commissioners to resign, says it has turned to its supporters to force them out through a series of protests held every Monday.
LOSS OF CREDIBILITY
Monday’s protest will be the third. The previous two were dispersed by police.
At the weekend, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said the police had enough tear gas to respond to Cord protests.
On Sunday, however, Mr Odinga said Cord’s calls for protests was supported by the Constitution, and proves that people are not “helpless” when national institutions are corrupted or fail.
“Is it conceivable that the people who empowered the institutions to work for them have now to sit helplessly and watch as these institutions betray them? Could the servants have now become more important than the masters?” asked Mr Odinga.
Last week, sporadic violence was reported in Nairobi, Kisumu and parts of Kisii as protesters clashed with police.
The Consumer Insight survey shows that the majority of those who support the demonstrations are in Kisumu and Mombasa, even though there was no anti-IEBC picketing at the Coast last week.
Only 27 per cent of Nairobi residents support the protests, compared with 50 per cent in Kisumu and 41 per cent in Mombasa counties.
The lowest support for the demos was recorded in Nakuru, where only 20 per cent of respondents said they supported the protests, followed by Nyeri (21 per cent) and Eldoret (28 per cent).
Forty-two per cent of Nairobi respondents said they believed the IEBC would carry out fair elections, compared with only 19 per cent in Kisumu and 30 per cent in Mombasa.
Faith in the electoral body is rooted in the ruling coalition’s political bases, with the highest rating (66 per cent) recorded in Nyeri and Meru, followed by 57 per cent in Nakuru and 56 per cent in Eldoret.