IEBC walks from one legal land mine to another

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Legal challenges are giving Kenya’s electoral body sleepiness nights as focus turns to judiciary to expedite resolution of disputes, which arose from political parties’ primaries and any elections related litigation.
There are concerns within Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that unprecedented high number of disputes from the just concluded party primaries and other elections related litigations could derail preparations for the general election if legal battles are prolonged.
Poll chiefs led by chairman Wafula Chebukati and Chief Justice David Maragaheld a consultative meeting on Thursday to discuss how all elections related litigations could be fast-tracked.
“The disputes will definitely affect the polls preparations, however, our chairman is handling that with the judiciary on how they can be fast-tracked,” IEBC communications manager Andrew Limo said.
The electoral body is also embroiled in another legal tussle with the the opposition, National Supper Alliance (Nasa), at the Court of Appeal over the declaration of polls results.
While the IEBC is contesting a high court ruling that allows results announced at the polling stations to be regarded as final, Nasa has warned that it will boycott the August 8 elections if the decision is reversed.
On April 7, High Court judges Aggrey Muchelule, Weldon Korir and Enoch Chacha Mwita, declared that the presidential results at the constituency level as announced by returning officers are final and should therefore not be subjected to any alterations by the IEBC at the national tallying centre. However, in an appeal notice, IEBC argued that the judges errored in their judgment and wants the decision reversed.
Justice Maraga is equally alarmed by the numbers of disputes arising from political parties’ primary, which forced him to extend the working hours of Political Parties Dispute Tribunal, where two benches with three judges each have been constituted.
According to Justice Maraga, the high numbers of disputes that have been filed is an indication of a protracted legal battles that could even end up in the High Court, which is not handled expeditiously, elections preparations could be interfered with.
“As of yesterday (Tuesday) we had around 46 disputes that had been filed at the tribunal. I have been forced to sign orders, extending the working hours of the tribunal just to ensure they are cleared as fast as possible,” said Justice Maraga at a gathering to award journalists in Nairobi.
The tribunal has already cleared some disputes, where nomination of candidates have been revoked, meaning the affected political parties will have to go back to the drawing board to get fresh candidates ahead of the May 28 deadline when IEBC is expected to receive the names of all candidates to pave the way for printing of ballot papers.
The disputes in political parties is likely to end up in High Court following division between political parties’ elections boards and internal dispute handling committees. For instance, Orange Democratic Party is facing a crisis as a result of bad blood between elections board headed by Judith Pareno and tribunal led by Willis Otieno.
The internal dispute handling committee is said to have complained of disregard to its verdicts by the elections board, which has the mandate of clearing candidates to vie for political seats. Disregarding it verdict, the dispute handling committee say, has seen some dispute filed at the Political Parties Tribunal.
In Jubilee Party, there have been a pull and push between elections board and disputes handling team, leading to consensus building among candidates to save time. However, some cases have already been filed at the tribunal.

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