The big divide over October 17 election

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One question has dominated political debate in the past one week: Will there be an election on October 17?

Part of the answer appeared to be revealed when President Uhuru Kenyatta said the Jubilee Party expects nothing less than what the Supreme Court ordered.

“We will not allow the IEBC to surpass the set 60-day deadline,” President Kenyatta said when he met Jubilee leaders at the Sagana State Lodge in Nyeri County.

A day earlier, on Thursday, the Opposition coalition Nasa issued a raft of nine conditions it expects the electoral commission to meet before it can agree to participate in the repeat presidential election.

And on Friday, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission said it had reached out to both the Jubilee Party and Nasa for talks to be held next week.

Just a day earlier, the commission’s chairman, Mr Wafula Chebukati, had expressed confidence that a solution to the political impasse would be found.

“I am positive that we are going to sit down and for the sake of the country, we shall come up with a solution to any issues that might be a roadblock to the holding of the elections on October 17,” he said.

However, several roadblocks still stand in the way of the fresh election ordered by the Supreme Court on September 1.

The most important remains one of money. Although the IEBC had asked the National Treasury for Sh12.2 billion for the repeat election, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich on Friday indicated that the amount would not be sufficient.

In his view, the commission will need a little over Sh15 billion once the security component of the election is factored in.

Mr Rotich intends to present the supplementary budget next week and was confident it will be approved by Parliament.

Notably, MPs allied to the Opposition, whose presidential candidate is Mr Raila Odinga, have been skipping debates in the Chamber since President Kenyatta opened the 12th Parliament last week.

The lawmakers have also refused to send their nominees to House committees, including that responsible for budgeting.

National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai said that in the event that the committees will not have been formed, a special ad hoc committee will be set up through a resolution of the House to scrutinise the supplementary budget.

“The committee will report to the plenary within the stipulated time. The House will either adopt the report of the committee in total or with amendments.

“The mandate of the committee will end once the committee is done with the matter,” Mr Sialai said.

That could mean that given its majority in Parliament, the Jubilee Party has the capacity to overcome the budget hurdle.

However, other arms of government will have to sacrifice to finance the fresh election.

“We are in this regard reorganising the planned spending for this year, with the targets going to affect all arms of government and constitutional offices on non-essential expenditures,” Mr Rotich said at the KICC in Nairobi.

“We have banned foreign travel, with a further target on hospitality, training and non-priority expenditure.”

On Thursday, President Kenyatta directed that no government official will travel outside the country without his express authority.

The directive was communicated in a letter from Mr Joseph Kinyua, the head of Public Service and the President’s chief of staff.

Even if Parliament were to jump over the money hurdle, the electoral commission still has to reckon with Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko.

On Thursday, Mr Tobiko said he was waiting for the final ruling of the Supreme Court before he can press charges against electoral officials found to have committed offences that led to the nullification of the presidential election results.

The Supreme Court on September 1 annulled the re-election of President Kenyatta, and found that the IEBC had committed “illegalities and irregularities”.

The six judges are expected to issue their ruling by Tuesday next week.

Only then will IEBC officials know who will be heading to court.

This could undermine the capacity of the commission to hold a credible election.

Already, Nasa leaders have said they expect nothing short of a credible election and they have issued their demands that they say must be met before they can agree to take part in the fresh election.

They have said there will be no election at all unless these conditions are met. Some of their demands are similar to those recommended by the European Union Elections Observation Mission and include sacking staff and officials believed to have abetted irregularities.
In an attempt to overcome this hurdle, Mr Chebukati reached out to President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, inviting them via Twitter for a joint meeting next week.

But speaking in Nyeri, Mr Kenyatta urged the IEBC to “stop the night meetings” and focus on organising the fresh poll that he was confident he will win.

He was referring to alleged meetings between Mr Chebukati and Nasa leaders, allegations that both have denied.

“We do not want to hear anything about these night meetings, what we want is an election on October 17,” Mr Kenyatta said at the Sagana Lodge.

And in Mombasa, where he was meeting Jubilee leaders, Deputy President William Ruto said: “We are just waiting for the elections… For us, all we want is elections to be conducted on October 17.”

Yet another former presidential candidate, Dr Ekuru Aukot, threw a spanner in the works on Friday when he insisted that he must be on the ballot too.

According to him, the Supreme Court ordered a fresh election and that, in his view, means that he is entitled to vie on October 17.

However, Mr Kenyatta dismissed him as a busybody.

In an opinion poll published on Friday by Infotrak, 84 percent of respondents said they had no problem with the October 17 election date.

Only 14 percent opposed the date. Of these, 76.7 percent said they would prefer November 1 as the date for fresh election.

However, this date is likely to interfere with the administration of national examinations — and the elections themselves — because schools are also used as polling centres.

Only a small fraction — 15 percent — proposed that the election be held on November 24.

However, the Supreme Court ruled that the fresh election must be held within 60 days from September 1.

That means the election must be held before October 30.

The IEBC has already settled on October 17. Now the question remains: Will there be an election on that day?

The IEBC, the body mandated to conduct the election, has been powering ahead with its preparations.

On Friday it concluded three days of training for its 47 county returning officers, with the template expected to be rolled out to the 290 in the constituencies.

From Tuesday until Friday next week, the IEBC will hold a national consultative meeting to plan for the fresh poll.

Concurrently, it will be configuring the 45,000 voter identification and results transmission kits that will be used in the fresh poll.