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Uncertainty clouds electoral body’s review of boundaries

Sunday October 6 2019

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati (C) inspects polling materials at Griftu training centre in Wajir County on April 24, 2019, ahead of the Wajir West by-election on April 25, 2019. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

WALTER MENYA
By WALTER MENYA
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ANITA CHEPKOECH
By ANITA CHEPKOECH
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There is no decision yet as to when the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) intends to start the review of boundaries.

It has been a widely held view that the exercise will begin in 2020 and end a year before the 2022 General Election.

DELIMITATION

But from an interview with the commission’s acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hussein Marjan, the commission is yet to make that call even as he emphasised the “commission is fully prepared to undertake the responsibility as provided for in the Constitution.”

“The option the commission will explore shall be influenced by timely availability of resources and other programmes requiring thorough preparation and equal attention like referendum and General Election,” Mr Marjan said as he avoided giving a clear timeline.

Article 89(2) of the Constitution provides that boundaries delimitation is undertaken after every eight to 12 years.

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Since the last review was completed in February 2012, it means the earliest the next review can commence is from March 2020 and the latest time the delimitation exercise can end is 2024.

Some reports suggest that the commission is leaning towards embarking on the exercise after the 2022 General Election so as not to have any influence on the elections, in which case the reviewed boundaries will be used for the 2027 elections.

PLENARY

This possibility has been raised at the commission’s plenary, the highest decision-making organ of IEBC, according to the commission’s insiders.

The Constitution requires that boundaries review should be completed at least a year to the General Election which means that the commission will be required to have finalised the review by August 2021 if they commence the exercise in March next year.

However, starting the exercise after the 2022 General Election could be impacted on the turnover of commissioners at IEBC.

If the remaining three commissioners — Chairman Wafula Chebukati, Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye — were to serve their terms, their last day in office will be January 18, 2023.

With elections set for August 2022 as provided for in the Constitution, the following six months will be taken up by election petitions and other post-election business. It means they will have left office before the commission concludes the delimitation.

VACANCIES

But there is even a more immediate threat to their continued stay in office after MPs last week proposed a bill that sets the framework for appointing a selection panel to recruit commissioners.

The sentiment among MPs is that once the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) No. 3 Bill is passed and assented to, they would demand that the three commissioners leave officers so that the new selection panel recruits a fresh team instead of just filling the existing vacancies.

In the second review of electoral boundaries, IEBC will be able to alter the names and boundaries of constituencies but the number set out in the constitution will remain at 290 unless there is an amendment to the Constitution. However going forward, the commission can alter the number, names and boundaries.

According to Mr Marjan, the commission has prepared an elaborate road map underpinning the framework of the next review “bearing in mind availability of the census report.”

“The commission relies on census report since population quota is a major factor in the determination of boundaries,” he said.

BUDGET

According to the road map, the acting CEO makes references to, the commission estimated that the second boundaries review will require a budget of Sh7 billion spread across four years from 2018.

The National Treasury has in the current financial year allocated to IEBC Sh533 million for delimitation of electoral boundaries, a significant increase from Sh398 million the commission received in 2018/2019 financial years though still way below the Sh4.3 billion in their proposed budget.

“The commission relies 100 per cent on the National Treasury for funding of all its programmes and projects. The commission is in continuous engagement with the National Treasury on its plans and timelines to ensure funding is made available when needed for the exercise,” said Mr Marjan.

SECRETARIAT

If the road map was strictly followed, the commission would by now have gazetted Revised Legal Framework and Regulations for the second review and held a national planning meeting with the executive, Speakers of parliament, Chief Justice, Council of Governors, Attorney General and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

The commission is also yet to hire professionals like cartographers and geographic information system analysts, or reorganised the secretariat in readiness for the review.