Court orders electoral body to extend voter registration
The High Court sitting in Eldoret yesterday extended the enhanced voter registration exercise that was to end today by a week.
Justice Eric Ogolla barred Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) from closing the exercise until a petition filed by activist Patrick Cherono is heard inter partes next week Thursday.
“Pending the hearing and determination of the application inter-partes, a prohibitory order is hereby issued prohibiting IEBC or its agents from closing the National voter registration exercise slated for closure on 2nd November 2021,” reads the orders.
Efforts to get comments on the new development from IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and the Chief Executive Commission Marjan Hussein Marjan did not bear fruit.
The commission on October 4, while launching the exercise, said it targeted to register six million new voters in four weeks, but a periodic statement from Chebukati released last week, showed the electoral body had registered a paltry 800,462 voters by the third week.
The low numbers have particularly been witnessed in the vote-rich Mt Kenya and Western regions where President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga respectively command a sizable following.
And in court, activist Cherono asked the court to extend the exercise by another 90 days to allow all eligible Kenyans to register as voters.
In his petition in which the National Assembly is listed as a respondent, Cherono said the extension is not an exception since in 2017, the court did extend a similar exercise to February 19, 2017 from scheduled end date of February 14, 2017 to enable more citizens to get registered.
According to him, the court should intervene, as it is apparent that the electoral commission will not be able to extend the registration deadline, despite low turnout of the citizens due to financial constraints.
“I urge the court to issue an order prohibiting the IEBC from ending the mass voter registration and consequently extend the same for a period of not less than three months,” reads the petition.
He wants the court to compel IEBC to always carry out continuous and / or perpetual national voter registration without any break in accordance with the provisions of Article 88(4)(a) of the Constitution and Section 4(a) of the IEBC Act, No. 9.”
Cherono said it is evident the exercise will not be extended because the National Assembly, which appropriates funds, has failed to allocate enough funds to the commission to enable it carry out the exercise.
“ That bearing in mind that there has been Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020 to date, Kenyans who have attained the age of majority need ample time to exercise their political right of registering as voters pursuant to the provisions of article 38 of the constitution of Kenya 2010,”reads the petition.
National Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairperson Kanini Kega is on record saying they do not have any more funds to allocate to IEBC to extend the exercise.
The orders by the court came on the day the Director Voter Registration and Electoral Operations Rasi Masudi ruled out the possibility of having a second round of enhanced voter registration durign a TV interview.
Although the commission had prepared itself to have two registration exercises in October and in December, as well as carry out enhanced voter education, he was categorical that it will be impossible to do so due to financial situation.
“ We are happy that we gave Kenyans a chance to register, we had planned mass voter registration from August to September and another one from December to January, but because of money we can only do one exercise,” he said.