The first batch of 20 million ballot papers is due to arrive on Tuesday, next week, as the electoral agency pushes with preparations for the August 8 General Election, even as a court case has halted the printing of presidential election ballot papers.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) made the disclosure yesterday but warned that the country could be headed for a constitutional crisis over possible delay of polls should the presidential ballot tender row, now in the Court of Appeal, fail to be resolved expeditiously.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati warned that the protracted crisis over presidential ballot papers could disrupt the election schedule and plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.
But he and chief executive Ezra Chiloba were upbeat the election will take place on August 8. At a meeting with senior editors and other media stakeholders, Chebukati said failure to hold the General Election on August 8 as stipulated in the Constitution poses danger to the country as it could plunge it into “a serious constitutional crisis”.
It was the first time Chebukati has publicly spoken of potential postponement of the elections, asserting the commission would not be held responsible for the delays.
However, IEBC is leaving nothing to chance and, even as the hearing in their appeal is awaited today, Chebukati said presidential ballot papers are expected in the country latest by August 4, despite uncertainty over which printing firm will be awarded the tender.
“We are waiting for the verdict of the Court of Appeal judges after the hearing on Friday (today) to know the way forward… after that we expect to receive the first batch of presidential papers by August 4,” he said.
That would just be four days before the election. His statement sought to instill confidence that even with the court case going on, planning for printing has not been halted. Nonetheless, Chebukati confirmed the printing of ballots papers for other categories in the six-tier election is on course, with the advance consignment to be delivered on Tuesday.
IEBC is also on schedule to print the presidential ballot papers if the impasse over tender can be resolved in good time, he said. On Thursday next week, IEBC will start running mock tests on the biometric voting equipment and systems to ensure everything is seamless ahead of the polls.
It emerged on Tuesday that the Dubai-based Al Ghurair printing firm is still among those to be considered for the direct award of the tender for presidential ballots.
Chiloba argued that, given the time left, it beats logic to subject the tendering process to bureaucratic rigours. He said, since the commission had already settled for Al Ghurair, the process should be allowed to carry on once the commission fulfils the court order on public participation. Public participation has been going on through the commission’s website, even as the appellate court ruling is pending.
“Due to the limited time available, we had decided the tender will be awarded directly and the only decision we are yet to make is who to be given the tender, but Al Ghurair is still among those that can be considered,” he said.
The cancellation of the controversial tender for the printing of presidential ballot papers by the firm has provoked three appeals from the national elections agency, Nasa and independent presidential candidate Samwel Waweru.
The parties, whose representatives appeared before the Court of Appeal President Paul Kihara on Wednesday, will square it out before a five-judge bench today.
Other presidential candidates have asked the electoral agency to consider local firms for the contract of printing ballot papers. Jubilee has, however, maintained it had no interest in who gets the contract, arguing it was up to IEBC to decide.
Meanwhile, Chebukati has warned of stern action against politicians who do not adhere to the Electoral Code of Conduct. He said the commission will be meeting presidential candidates to have them commit to peaceful election.
He equally warned supporters of politicians against engaging in hostility, that reared its ugly head in Mbita, Kisumu and Kabarnet on Tuesday and in Thika and Murang’a yesterday.