THE ELECTORAL PROCESS:
Role of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in Kenya.
- The Commission is responsible for conducting or supervising referenda and elections to any elective body or office.
- It is responsible for continuous registration of citizens as voters and regular revision of the voters’ roll.
- It Prescribes and reviews electoral boundaries in constituencies and wards at intervals of not less than eight years, and not more than twelve years. The constitution provides for 290 constituencies established under the following considerations;
- Community of interest, historical, economic and cultural ties
- Geographical features and urban centres
- Means of communication
- It is responsible for regulation of the process by which parties nominate candidates for elections.
- The commission is responsible for settlement of electoral disputes, including disputes relating to or arising from nominations. However it does not handle election petitions and disputes subsequent to the declaration of election results.
- The registration of candidates for election.
- Educate/informs the public on the requirements for voters and contestants
- Facilitation of the observation, monitoring and evaluation of elections.
- It is responsible for regulation of the amount of money that may be spent by or on behalf of a candidate or party in respect of any election.
- Identifies, appoints and trains election officials.
- Verifies and announces election results
- Prepares ballot papers and other election materials.
- Identifies and recommends polling stations.
Types of elections.
- General elections. These are elections held after every five years. Initially they were meant to be held on the second Tuesday in August on the fifth year. But this has since been altered due to the delay in new constitution implementation process
- By elections. These are elections of new leaders to fill vacant seats left following deaths of occupants, resignation or annulment of their election through successful petition in court.
- Re –run elections- this are elections held exactly one month after the general elections involving only two presidential candidates in case of no clear winner in the general election.
Why Kenyans elect their representatives to parliament every five years.
- It is a constitutional requirement that Kenyans elect MPs after every five years.
- The elections give Kenyans a chance to practice their democratic right of choosing their representatives.
- It enables Kenyans control their elected representatives i.e. the fear of losing election ensures that elected representative serve the electorate well.
- It enables Kenyans choose between representatives and between parties that express the policies that they agree with.
- Through periodic elections, Kenyans are able to participate in activities of their government The following methods have been used in elections in Kenya.
- Mololongo (queuing)
- Secret ballot.
THE 2007 ELECTIONS IN KENYA
The Kreigler commission that was formed to look into the causes of the 2008 violence reported the following weaknesses.
- Irregularities in the voter register which excluded 30% of the potential voters the register contained names of deceased persons. Women who had attained the voting age were found to be under represented.
- Imbalanced distribution of registered voters among constituencies. Some constituencies like Embakasi had over 200, 000 registered voters while others like Mandera East had less than 20,000 registered voters.
- Rampant cheating where in some cases the votes cast were more than 100% of the registered voters.
- Existence of exclusive strongholds with some electoral areas being out of bounds for some political parties.
- There was a defective system of voter tallying and relaying of information. Some of those declared winners finally lost their seats through election petitions.
- Incompetence of the ECK officials with even the chairman stating clearly that it was impossible to establish who won the elections.
- The results relayed sometimes faced integrity queries. Some officials relayed cooked results.
- The composition of the ECK raised suspicion especially among the opposition.
The principles that govern the electoral process in Kenya.
- All citizens have the freedom to exercise their political rights
- Not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.
- Persons with disabilities must receive fair representation.
- There must be universal suffrage based on the aspiration for fair representation and equality of vote.
- The elections should be free and fair and will be by secret ballot, free from violence, intimidation, improper influence or corruption.
- The elections will be conducted by an independent body, transparent; and administered in an impartial, neutral, efficient, accurate and accountable manner.
Legislation on Elections.
- The constitution of Kenya-that is a sovereign state and republic with the people owning all sovereign power directly or through democratically elected leaders.
- The national assembly and presidential elections Act- it outlines the steps to be followed in the registration of voters, nomination of candidates, polling and counting of votes and other related processes.
- The local government act- it gives the procedure and rules for conducting elections for county, municipal and town councils.
- The electoral offences Act. – it lays out the election offences like bribing of voters, threatening voters, voting more than once or causing violence on polling day or during campaigns.
- One must be an adult citizen at least 18 years old.
- He/she must be a Kenyan citizen in possession of an identity card or passport.
- He/she must be a registered voter.
- He/she must been registered at only one registration centre
- One must not be an insane person.
- He/she must have been convicted of an election offence during the Preceding five years.
Voter and civic education.
Civic education is aimed at conveying knowledge to the citizens about the country’s political system and context. For example, information about the system of government, the nature and powers of the elective offices, to be filled in an election.
Nomination of candidates.
- Party nominations
- IEBC nominations
- The person should not be a member of a registered political party and should not have been a member for at least three months immediately before the date of elections
- He/she must be a registered voter.
- He/ she must satisfy the educational, moral and ethical requirements as per the constitution or act of parliament.
- In case of national assembly elections, he/she must attract the support of at least 1000 registered voters in the constituency.
- In case of the senate, one must attract the support of at least 2000 registered voters in the county.
Conditions that must be met by one wishing to be elected Member of Parliament.
- A person is eligible for election as a Member of Parliament if the person is registered as a voter.
- If the person satisfies any educational, moral and ethical requirements prescribed by the Constitution or by an Act of Parliament.
- if he is nominated by a political party, or is an independent candidate who is supported in the case of election to the National Assembly, by at least one thousand Registered voters in the constituency; or in the case of election to the Senate, by at least two thousand registered voters in the county.
Disqualifications for one from being elected a Member the National Assembly.
- If the person is a State officer or other public officer, other than a Member of Parliament.
- If a person has, at any time within the five years immediately preceding the date of election, held office as a member of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
- If a person has not been a citizen of Kenya for at least the ten years immediately preceding the date of election.
- If a person is a member of a county assembly.
- If one is of unsound mind.
- If one is declared bankrupt.
- Is subject to a sentence of imprisonment of at least six months, as at the date of registration as a candidate, or at the date of election.
- If one is found, in accordance with any law, to have misused or abused a State office or public office.
An elected MP may lose his/her seat in parliament under the following circumstances.
- When he/she ceases to be a Kenyan citizen.
- He /she receive a jail sentence exceeding 6 months or death penalty from a court of law.
- When he/she resign, through writing to the speaker, from the national assembly.
- When he/she is declared bankrupt by a court of law.
- When he/she is found to be of unsound mind.
- When he/she resigns from the sponsoring political party or as an MP.
- When he/she fails to attend 8 consecutive sessions during the life of a particular parliament without permission from the speaker.
- When he/she defects from one party to another.
- When he/she having been elected to parliament as an independent candidate, decides to join a political party.
The returning officer, the election officer in the constituency then tallies the total votes from all the polling stations and announces per candidate in the constituency. He/she declares the elected mp for the constituency and councilors of each ward. He announces the number of votes per candidate for the presidential elections.
The IEBC then declares the validly elected candidates for the presidential, National Assembly and Senate.
Factors likely to interfere with free and fair elections in Kenya.
- Ethnic loyalties/polarization/Party loyalties. People may be compelled to vote along tribal lines, in total disregard of the leadership records or accomplishment of those they elect.
- Illiteracy of some voters. This curtails their ability to mark the ballot papers correctly.
- Inadequate civic education. The lack of adequate sensitization of the voters can lead to ineffective election process.
- Violence. Harassment of voters by rival groups/ Insecurity/fear instilled in candidates. All forms of chaos makes accessibility to voting stations by voters difficult.
- Corruption of candidates and their supporters. This is through bribing of voters to vote for certain candidates.
- Incompetent election officials. Some election officials are partisan and therefore unable to preside over elections competently.
- Rigging. On many occasions aspiring candidates or their agents have complained of rigging.
- Transport difficulties. The electoral process in Kenya has been faced with the problem of Inaccessibility of some polling stations
- Communication problems. During the voting day, some remote areas experience communication problems between the headquarters’ and the polling stations.
- Extreme weather conditions. Delivery of polling materials has sometimes been affected by bad weather.
- Gender insensitivity. For a long time, women have not been given a fair share in the electoral process in Kenya.
- Use and misuse of mass media. Some politicians own some media houses, sometimes they have subjected them to misuse. There has been also the problem of imbalance when it comes to media coverage of elections.
Electoral guidelines and regulations that may help minimize irregularities.
- Whatever voting method is used, the system must be simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent.
- The votes cast must be counted, tabulated and the results announced promptly by the presiding officer at each polling station.
- The results from the polling stations must be openly and accurately collated and promptly announced by the returning officer.
- Appropriate structures and mechanisms to eliminate electoral malpractices must be in place, including the safekeeping of electoral materials.
- Electoral petitions, other than in a presidential election, must be filed within 28 days after the declaration of the election results by the IEBC.
- Service of a petition may be direct or by advertisement in a newspaper with national circulation.
- District election coordinators. - Officials responsible for all electoral matters at district level. They act as a link between people at the grassroots level and the IEBC headquarters.
- Registration officers. –they register voters in each constituency and issue them with voter’s card.
Returning officers. – are in charge of elections in a constituency which has several polling stations. They perform the following functions:
- They set up polling booths in each polling station.
- They receive nomination papers from prospective candidates
- They distribute ballot papers and boxes to polling stations.
- They supervise the voting and counting of votes in the constituency.
- They appoint the presiding officers in each polling station.
- Announcing the results of the elections.
Presiding officers. –in charge of polling stations. And perform the following duties;
- They conduct the polls in an orderly, free and fair manner at the polling station.
- They ensure that every eligible voter votes only once.
- They help illiterate voters mark ballot papers.
- They seal the ballot boxes and transfer them to a central point in the polling station where the votes will be counted.
- They maintain law and order at polling stations and report any irregularities to the returning officer.
- They ensure that there is impartiality in conducting.
- Polling clerks. On the polling day, they assist and guide voters, particularly those who are illiterate.
- Security personnel. –police officers maintain law and order during the polling and counting of votes.
- Counting clerks. –they sort out ballots and then count the ballots per candidate.
- Party agents. – they represent candidates or political parties in a polling station or counting hall to ensure that the polling and counting procedures are transparent , orderly , free and fair.
- Observers. –these are neutral persons who make observations and write reports on the polling and counting exercise to indicate if the elections were free and fair or not.