Pressure from allies of Deputy President William Ruto and top Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials led to the clearance of football star McDonald Mariga to vie for the Kibra parliamentary seat, the Nation has learnt.
According to a source at the commission, Kibra Returning Officer Beatrice Muli was right in barring the Jubilee candidate from running because he was ‘not a registered voter’.
“The lady was right, but pressure from top officials made the decision be rescinded,” said the source.
However, Mr Mariga’s woes might not be over, since a voter in Kibra, Mr Leina Konchellah, who petitioned the IEBC to state its position on the issue of Mr Mariga’s age, might move to the High Court.
In the Monday ruling, the electoral commission tribunal largely concentrated on the authenticity of Mr Mariga’s registration as a voter, and not the authenticity of his ID.
“It is curious to note that the complainant presented a national identity card indicating his date of birth as April 1987, and further presented his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education certificate indicating he sat his Form Four examinations in November/December 2002,” says Mr Konchellah.
He says the documents Mr Mariga presented to the commission could be having integrity issues, and thus go against Chapter Six of the Constitution.
In its 20-page ruling delivered at its headquarters, the tribunal said that Mr Mariga is duly registered as a voter and that the decision by the Kibra returning officer had been set aside.
IEBC chair Wafula Chebukati, accompanied by commissioner Boya Molu, ordered the returning officer to immediately process Mr Mariga’s application for nomination as the Jubilee candidate for the November 7 by-election.
Mr Chebukati said although Ms Muli told the tribunal that she could not find Mr Mariga’s name in the Kiems Kit at the point of verification, she could not confirm whether the register had been updated to reflect subsequent voter registration.
“We are of the view that the absence of Mariga’s name on the register that was used by the respondent could not have been taken as conclusive proof of lack of registration, more so given that Mr Mariga had indicated that he was registered in a different constituency,” Mr Chebukati said.
“We are aware of the technological challenges which might result in a delay in real-time update of the Kiems kit, especially where the registration is conducted in different areas using BVR machines,” he added.
Top Jubilee officials led by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and his Senate counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen were present at the function.
They praised the IEBC for doing justice, adding that they are ready to face their opponents at the ballot.
Mr Mariga had petitioned the commission after his nomination was rejected.
The Constitution, under the Election Act 5 (1) b, stipulates that voter registration will be carried out at all times, except in the case of a by-election between the date of the declaration of the vacancy of the seat concerned and the date of the by-election.
However, the tribunal pointed out that this provision is exclusive to the electoral area, in this case Kibra Constituency, and not Starehe, where Mr Mariga registered.
“It does not apply to other constituencies where there are no by-elections, and neither does it apply to the registration of candidates. It is limited to the registration of voters. There was therefore no impediment to the complainant being registered in any other constituency which was not subject to the by-election,” Mr Chebukati said.
Mr Mariga is said to have registered in Starehe 12 days after the Kibra seat was declared vacant, a factor the petitioner said was another ground for barring him from contesting.
Mr Mariga’s legal team submitted to the tribunal that the definition of a register under the Election Act is not limited to Kiems, and that the decision by the Kibra returning officer to disqualify Mariga was ill-conceived, grossly illegal and tantamount to taking away his constitutional right.