Kenya sacks Electoral Commission but they wont budge

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Kenyan authorities may publish a new constitutional amendment bill Friday, setting the tone for the disbandment of the country’s maligned Electoral Commission (ECK), officials have indicated.

Kenya’s Justice Minister Martha Karua said her ministry had finalised the draft bill, seeking to amend the Kenyan constitution to pave the way for the creation of an Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), to replace ECK.

ECK commissioners, who have previously vowed to stay put, have slammed the move as “unconstitutional” and accused the government of violating a High Court order barring parliament and the executive arm of government from enacting such a law.

However, the ruling by the high court has been at the centre of a heated exchange between Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende and Chief Justice Evan Gicheru, who argued the court was within its powers to block debate on the proposed bill.

Separation of Powers

Marende, in his ruling on the matter about a week back, urged the judiciary not to interfere with the legislative process and said the principle of the separation of powers did not allow the courts to question parliament’s law-making capacity.

Gicheru shot back with a warning that the courts had the powers to interpret the law and its application.

Speaking to journalists Thursday, Karua said the Government Printer was running copies of the proposed constitutional amendment bill, which will formally entrench the IIEC into the constitution and formally disband the ECK and its commissioners.

“I submitted the bill to the government printer and it is expected to be out by today (Thursday) evening,” Karua told journalists in Nairobi.

Kenyan politicians have launched a flurry of activity as the country moves towards the deadline issued by President Kibaki for a new constitution, which was one of the key issues the talks on a power-sharing agreement were pegged on after the chaotic polls last December.

ECK is accused of meddling with the vote-counting and tallying, leading to a flawed outcome of the 27 December polls that later plunged the once peaceful African nation into chaos, leaving some 1,303 people dead.

The government confirmed only 1,000 deaths.

The Kriegler report

The flurry of activity has been around the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Johann Kriegler report on the country’s flawed electoral laws.

Kriegler, a retired South African Judge, recommended the disbandment of the ECK altogether. He said the new electoral body should be “lean and efficient”, rather than a bloated commission of 22 commissioners as the ECK is currently constituted.

ECK said this week its commissioners and staff would stay in office as long as orders barring parliament from enacting laws to replace it are still in force.

Parliament insists that it will strictly follow its laws and immunities against external interference to enact any laws it deems fit, according to the Speaker.

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