This is also the time to clean the register, procure the necessary technology and materials and conduct voter education. None of these stages are quick. As such, changes need to start happening this year if the country is not to find itself in a similar position to 2017 in 2022 when new commissioners came in far too late in the day.
The first stage – namely, the need to gain new IEBC commissioners and key officials – is difficult and time-consuming process.
First, the existing commissioners and key officials have to be persuaded to stand down. Second, there would have to be some agreement on how to appoint their replacements, which is complicated by the level of political polarisation and by the consideration that, ideally, this recruitment process should be done differently compared to last time.
In 2016, new commissioners were appointed by a selection panel comprised of four members nominated by the parliamentary service commission and five religious leaders.
However, while this process enjoyed broad political support, it was inherently problematic.
In short, the various political appointees seem to have blocked relatively strong candidates who they believed might be biased towards their opponents, and simultaneously tried to ensure that their preferred candidates succeeded.
This led to a bizarre situation where applicants with the highest scores were not appointed, while many of the final appointees had clear associations with one side or other of the political divide. This then fed through into divisions, or camps, within the IEBC, which came to the limelight after the Supreme Court’s annulment of President Kenyatta’s re-election in September 2017.
Given this context, new selection and appointment procedures ideally need to be agreed to before the labourious selection and appointment process begins. But this would only be the beginning.
Decisions are required, among other things, on how planning is to be conducted in a way that six elections can be held across the country in a single day in a way that is largely free from technical problems. This is critical given the difficulty of distinguishing technical problems — that are simply the result of poor planning — from those that have a more Machiavellian intent and the capacity of the latter to undermine the entire electoral process.
Lynch is a professor of Comparative Politics, University of Warwick, UK [email protected]; @GabrielleLynch6