Saturday, August 15, 2009



By Mutinda Mwanzia

The next election may be very different from what Kenyans have known in the past 45 years.

Voters may go to the polls for more than a day to pick president, MPs and councillors. The election of the president may be held on a separate day if the recommendations of the national conference on electoral reform are adopted.

The conference that started on Wednesday, through yesterday, also recommended election rules should allow independent candidates who do not belong to a political party.

And as if to further bury the ghost of the defunct Electoral Commission that has been blamed for the bungled 2007 presidential election, an Election Management Board (EMB) may manage the 2012 General Election.

The proposals during the electoral reforms’ conference are also likely to see Kenya embrace information technology in election management to make it easy to access results and prevent the announcement of confusing and unofficial outcomes.

Justice PS Amina Mohammed welcomes Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka to close the conference, Friday.

International participants supported electronic voting and relay of results, saying this would eliminate fraud that led to violence in 2007. They were from Ghana, South Africa, India and Canada, among others.

The manual process of collecting, collating, transmitting and tallying votes may also become things of the past. Among the wide ranging recommendations endorsed after the three-day conference closed by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, was the need for the country to adopt devolution in its governance structure so that a second chamber of Parliament is established, to ensure equal representation.

Genuine change

Yesterday, the conference, that drew participants from across the country, essentially became a national dialogue on electoral reforms.

Participants unanimously agreed that a new constitution was the minimum requirement for laying the foundation for genuine democracy.

Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) Commissioner Ken Nyaundi, who read the recommendations, said devolution of power, resources and bridging glaring economic inequalities will boost democracy.

Other recommendations are that EMB be founded on functional and financial independence.

The conference, whose theme was ‘Setting the Agenda for Kenya’, also recommended that the political class support efforts for a new constitution by next year.

The forum also recognised the country needed a new electoral system since the current one has been a source of conflict due to its winner-take-all approach.

"The system does not ensure equitable representation of all interests and groups of society in Parliament, especially the marginalised," said Mr Nyaudi.

He said the basis of fundamental electoral reforms had already been laid through the establishment of the IIEC and the Interim Independent Boundary Review Commission (IIBRC).

The conference pushed for the reduction of the size of the electoral commission and the establishment of a professional secretariat.

The electoral proposals also include reviewing voter registration and limiting discretion of election officials.

Other proposed reforms include the review of electoral boundaries, with the conference’s recommendations pointing out the boundaries should be done by a team other than the electoral commission to avoid political overtones and ensure public acceptability. The reforms proposed that the review of electoral boundaries should not necessarily result in the creation of more constituencies.

The boundary review for electoral and administrative units should also be separated.

Fight ethnicity

The conference also recommended the urgent need to build strong and national political parties with clear ideologies.

Other proposals include the need to eradicate ethnic-based politics and full compliance with Political Parties Act. The conference resolved the Press was ill equipped to deal with the challenges posed by the 2007 General Election. It alleged that the media were influenced by excitement, threats, intimidation, violence, bribery and political polarity. The envisaged EMB should develop methods of dealing with the media to improve the quality of election reporting.

"The EMB should also improve the process and speed up supply of election results to the media," said Nyaundi. The conference also reiterated the role of leadership in electoral reforms, saying the failure of leadership was to blame for the current electoral challenges.