Katiba Institute, in partnership with the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, hosted a national stakeholder forum to examine the electoral landscape in Kenya, highlighting gaps and proposing recommendations in the existing electoral system.
The two-day meeting, held on 26th and 27th June 2023, aimed to strengthen the electoral processes in Kenya by equipping civil society organizations with the necessary knowledge, insights, and strategies to anticipate and address challenges ahead of future elections. By promoting active engagement and awareness among the public, the meeting targeted to foster a more inclusive and transparent electoral system, ensuring fair and democratic outcomes.
Katiba Institute Executive Director, Christine Nkonge, outlined the need for civil society and other stakeholders to evaluate the country’s electoral process.
“We want to evaluate where we have been, what we have learned, and what we need to do better in preparation for the future,” noted Christine.
In her opening remarks, ICJ Kenya’s Executive Director, Elsy Saina, emphasised elections’ critical role in a democracy, thus the discussions’ relevance.
“Elections are pivotal moments in the life of any democratic nation. They represent the power of choice, the voice of the people, and the cornerstone of our democratic values.” said Elsy.
Review of election laws and court decisions
The discussions also entailed an assessment of the legal frameworks governing elections, including a review of electoral laws and their potential impact on future elections. Implications of various statutes and pending Bills affecting elections were also considered, particularly on the issues of campaign financing, the realization of the two-thirds gender principle, administration of elections in terms of the composition and quorum of the IEBC as well as the selection of IEBC commissioners; data protection and audit of the election technology before, during and after elections.
Participants further examined critical decisions from courts emerging from the 2022 elections cycle. Issues emerging from these discussions included the unresolved question of eligibility and suitability of persons seeking to hold a public office based on academic qualifications and Chapter Six integrity threshold; the two-thirds gender principle; rights and representation of marginalized groups and minorities in elections; enforcement of the electoral code of conduct; challenges facing independent candidates in meeting requirements for elections and implications of the Political Parties Amendment Act.
Participants were taken through the three vital elements of election technology and their intended use in the election cycle. The three elements include biometric voter registration (BVR), electronic voter identification (EVID), and electronic results transmission system. These elements, it was noted, had improved the electoral addressing challenges of voting more than once, improving verification of voters and introducing a system for electronic transmission of votes alongside the physical delivery of results from the polling stations. However, it was cautioned that loopholes could be exploited to interfere with elections, such as failure to identify voters during voting, leading to the use of the manual register. Recommendations included upskilling civil society, media, observer groups, and other relevant stakeholders’ capacities to monitor the technological aspects of elections. Also, lawyers, prosecutors, and the judiciary be trained in elections technology.
Participants also discussed the performance of civil society organizations during the 2022 elections. The role of CSOsin monitoring and observing elections in Kenya was underlined as critical as it provides a basis for learning from the previous election, which is pivotal for improving future electoral processes. Civil society organizations were challenged to complement their efforts in championing electoral reforms and collaborate more at the regional, county, and national levels in readiness for the 2027 elections.
Civil society organizations and media partnership
The need for partnership between the media and CSOs was underlined, with strategies to effect the partnerships highlighted. It was agreed that there was a need for sustained engagement and collaboration between media and civil society through dialogue sessions. Civil society organizations should plan for capacity development for the media, thinking more strategically and programmatically. In addition, Looking at policy and legal frameworks for the media because of the changing political landscape in Kenya and how civil society will communicate to impact the community