Kenyan Lawmakers Approve Committee to Overhaul Electoral Body

  • Parliament orders reforms to be completed before 2017 vote
  • Opposition coalition says changes essential to avoid violence

Kenya’s parliament approved the formation of a committee of lawmakers to lead an overhaul of the East African nation’s electoral body before a vote in August 2017.

Members of parliament voted in favor of establishing the committee, which will comprise 14 lawmakers from both the ruling party and opposition, Dennis Onyango, a spokesman for the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, said by phone Wednesday from the capital, Nairobi. The panel to reform the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is expected to complete work within the next four weeks and provide recommendations to parliament.

CORD, as the opposition group is known, has held a series of nationwide protests since April to push for an overhaul of the electoral body. At least five people have died in clashes with police at the demonstrations.

CORD says it wants the electoral commission to step down, its secretariat to be reconstituted and a new voters’ register to be in place before next year’s election. Opposition leader Raila Odinga said in a June 28 interview that the number of commissioners should be cut to five from nine, and the opposition must be able to nominate two.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, 54, will seek a second term in next year’s vote after teaming up with one-time rival Deputy President William Ruto to win power in 2013 under the banner of the Jubilee Alliance. Both men were charged by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity for targeting each others’ groups after the 2007 vote. Kenyatta and Ruto denied any wrongdoing and the cases were dropped for lack of evidence.

Odinga, who poses the biggest challenge to Kenyatta’s rule, has warned of upheaval reminiscent of the aftermath of 2007’s disputed election should voters perceive next year’s poll as fraudulent. Ethnic violence that continued into 2008 left more than 1,100 people dead.

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