It’s back to electronic register as IEBC yields
07 August 2012, Standard Digital
Fears of another botched General Election receded on Monday with the announcement that voter registration will be by electronic means and not manual.
The decision was reached following a meeting between top Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials and the two principals, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The meeting resolved to resolve the crisis sparked by cancellation of a Sh3.9 billion biometric voter registration (BVR) kit by securing similar equipment from friendly states that have adopted the system.
To this end, the Government has been tasked to negotiate with other states to acquire the equipment in record time for the elections.
Confirming the new developments, IEBC Chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan said in a statement last evening the Government had agreed to procure a BVR kit on their behalf.
Although he did not name the likely source, countries such as Germany, Canada and India have used the system successfully, as has Ghana.
The meeting at the President’s Harambee House office that lasted over three hours was also attended by, among others, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Attorney General Githu Muigai, Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa and the Chairman of the Committee on Implementation of the Constitution (CIOC) Mr Abdikadir Mohammed.
Hassan said that during the meeting, his commission emphasised that its preferred option for registration of voters has always been BVR.
"However, the acquisition of BVR kits was frustrated by cumbersome procurement laws and procedures, political and vendor rivalry. In addition, the Elections Act, imposed strict timelines for the closure of the registration process, that is, 90 days before the election date (4th December, 2012),” he added.
Hassan further noted that after lengthy deliberations at the meeting, they requested that the kits be procured through a government-to-government arrangement.
"We are glad to inform Kenyans that the Government has accepted the Commission’s request and has committed to procure and deliver the kits on time for the exercise,” he added.
He further disclosed that during Monday’s discussions, the Government agreed to initiate amendments in Parliament to the Elections Act in order to reduce the period for closure of the register from 90 to 45 days.
This, he explained, would allow an additional 45 days for the voter registration, which would have been concluded earlier.
If the amendments go through the Parliament, then the Voter Register will be closed on January 19, 2013 or 45 days before the March 4 elections.
Hassan assured Kenyans that if the Government procured all the kits on time and IEBC gets additional time to register the voters, then there should be no cause for alarm, as the commission will deliver the polls.
"We assure Kenyans that with the above arrangements, the Commission will deliver on BVR registration, as part of its commitment to deliver a transparent, credible, free and fair General Elections,” he added.
The IEBC has been under intense pressure to reverse its decision to abandon the BVR model, and Hassan conceded that the widespread disapproval of the manual registration of voters by Kenyans, including all levels of political leadership, Parliament, the Executive and Civil Society made it easier for them to review the decision.
The pace was equally set by the Cabinet last week meeting under the chairmanship of President Kibaki that threw its weight behind the BVR system, following a consensus that the 2007 elections would have been smoother and firewalled against rigging had BVR been in use.
Monday’s meeting also came against the backdrop of a weekend visit by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, whose asked Kibaki and Raila to ensure the elections are free, free and credible for Kenyan’s sake.
Clinton met President Kibaki first, followed by the PM, then House Speaker Kenneth Marende, Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga and IEBC commissioners led by Hassan.
And in a meeting with Marende, Clinton is said to have impressed upon the Speaker that the electronic voting system is the way to go.
"It is safer to use electronic voting as opposed to manual voting,” Clinton is said to have told the Marende, according to sources that attended the meeting at Parliament buildings on Saturday.
The sources that asked not to be quoted, said Clinton told Marende the US is ready and willing to offer financial and technical support to the IEBC for the elections.
The source added that Clinton told the Speaker that the recommendations of the Kriegler Commission on Post-Election Violence on how the next polls should be conducted were very clear if a recurrence is to be avoided.
Clinton said IEBC should be allowed to source a BVR kit directly from the manufacturers as opposed to using "bureaucratic” systems where middlemen are involved.
Saying that "too much is at stake for Kenya,” she appealed to Kenyans to build on the success of the 2010 Referendum on the Constitution and conduct elections that will entice investors.
"The world will be watching Kenya. The country is currently viewed as the leader in the East African Region. One bad election can take away all that,” she warned.
Clinton emphasised a free and fair poll would be the best incentive for attracting investors to Kenya.
Last week IEBC cancelled the Sh3.9 billion BVR tender after all the four shortlisted companies failed due diligence prompting the commission to announce it would resort to manual voter registration.
This was a major blow to the IEBC in terms of public confidence as it had all along kept the public’s hopes high that it would embrace the electronic voting to avoid rigging.
The move even prompted Marende to order a probe of the matter by two House committees that are to table a report in the house within 14 days.