People Daily

Build electoral system that can withstand test of time

Just a few days after the contentious suspension of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chief executive Ezra Chiloba, three commissioners resigned yesterday, citing irreconcilable differences with chairman Wafula Chebukati.

Together with the resignation of commissioner Roselyne Akombe after the August 2017 presidential election, the departure of the three colleagues, including deputy chair Consolata Maina, has dealt IEBC a blow that would take a miracle to recover from.

For one, IEBC is now a skeleton with only the chair and two commissioners remaining. Add that to a headless secretariat and you have an organisation on the verge of collapse. If the commission falls as is widely expected, its short life story will be familiar.

Since the re-introduction of multiparty elections in 1992 and the establishment of a substantial poll management body, electoral commissions have been transient entities that seldom oversee more than one election.

Yet electoral bodies ought to be proper institutions, that undergo personnel and structural changes, not the kind of mass departures that has been the bane of our commissions since the 2007 disputed presidential election and the resultant crisis.

The demolition of electoral bodies after every election means we are not building an institution strong enough to withstand the formidable tempest that is a typical Kenyan General Election.

The result is that elections are always overseen by commissioners, and even secretariat, who are new on the job, and who do not have sufficient experience and institutional memory to draw from.

Our elections are emotive enough without the additional problem of an electoral body that appears rudderless or partisan. Which is why there is need to seriously think about establishing a commission that can withstand election tempests and the test of time.

That can only be achieved if the structure and functions of IEBC are overhauled to ensure it survives more than one election cycle and grows into a proud public institution guided by laws and traditions. This considering that IEBC’s mandate stretches beyond elections.

Besides restructuring, IEBC needs people of integrity whose main motivation is to deliver on their constitutional duty. Far too often, the commission and the secretariat have been accused of political partisanship and lack of transparency.

There is need to come up with a foolproof formula of picking commissioners and secretariat to block political lackeys and hatchet men from finding their way into the electoral body. That is the only way we can have an objective referee in elections.

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