(Xinhua) -- Lawmakers from major opposition parties
in Kenya on Thursday staged a walkout from a parliamentary
session to protest the passage of a contentious legal provision
that allows use of manual voting in case the electronic system
The opposition lawmakers accused their rivals in the ruling
Jubilee Coalition of arbitrarily approving a clause that
legitimizes use of manual voting and transmission of results in
the event the digital tallying system encountered hitches.
The change, the opposition legislators said was paving way for
rigging the elections which throw the east Africa nation into
political crisis as witnessed in the 2007/08 post-election
As lawmakers allied to the ruling coalition passed the
controversial election law, their opposition counterparts
marched in the streets of Nairobi and later proceeded to the
High Court to challenge the move.
Thursday’s passage of proposed amendment to Election Act
escalated political tensions in Kenya on the eve of Christmas
Earlier on Tuesday, a special parliamentary sitting ended in
disarray as opposition lawmakers blocked attempts to discuss and
approve the contentious electoral law.
As Kenya gears up for the August 2017 polls, both sides of the
political divide have taken hard-line positions on how the
process should be conducted.
While President Uhuru Kenyatta has maintained that next year’s
elections will be free and fair, his opposition rivals have
raised concern over unsettled legal and institutional hiccups
that might undermine the process.
The Kenyan leader on Wednesday assured the public and
international community that his government was committed to a
transparent voting process.
“We want an election that will enable Kenyans to form the
government they want. Nobody will prevent that from happening,”
Kenyatta remarked during the inauguration of a new vehicle
assembly plant on the outskirts of Nairobi
On his part, the leader of opposition alliance CORD, Raila
Odinga warned against attempts to amend electoral laws without
following due process.
The former prime minister stressed that any changes to the
election laws should be conducted in a bipartisan manner to
prevent a political crisis.
Odinga warned the use of manual voting and tallying system
during the forthcoming national elections, saying it is
vulnerable to manipulation.
“Digital voting has been successfully used in countries like
Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia and Tanzania. Why should it fail only in
Kenya?” Odinga said.
A bipartisan team of lawmakers in August agreed on a set of new
rules and regulations to guide next year’s general elections.
The 14-member team was formed to discuss reforms in the
electoral laws following countrywide protests by opposition
Among the issues agreed upon by the bipartisan committee was
exit of current electoral bosses alongside legal and
institutional reforms to ensure the voting process is free, fair
The opposition lawmakers said investing in a functioning
electronic voting system is key to deterring malpractices that
would fuel a political crisis in Kenya.
Meanwhile, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission
(IEBC) on Thursday expressed concern over the divisive nature
the 2017 electoral process has taken, saying it wants a
bipartisan approach to resolve the outstanding issues.
In a statement, the polls body said the country is witnessing
unwarranted grandstanding among political players on key issues
that touch on the electoral process.
“This is not helpful and will not be helpful. It is eight months
to the next general election. It is the duty of each actor,
especially political leaders, to give Kenyans reasons to be
hopeful with elections. This will require sobriety in debates,
tolerance and respect for the rule of law,” the statement said.
The IEBC said it has attempted to reach out to the key players
in the electoral process in the last few weeks to help resolve
some of the issues of concern which must be addressed.
“However, there is no unanimity on the mechanism of addressing
them. We have listened to neutral voices on this matter. We
support the proposal that a team of non-partisan or bi-partisan
actors be at the centre of constructive political dialogue
whenever necessary,” it said.