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Harsh penalties for violators of electoral laws

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Kenya‘s upcoming general election has gathered full momentum after the electoral commission published a gazette notice marking the commencement of the election period.

In the notice, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) gazetted August 9, 2022, as the date for the general election and further listed the timelines for the various pre-election processes.

In the wake of early campaigns by various aspirants and a crackdown on hate mongers, the poll body has released guidelines governing the Electoral Code of Conduct and the Election Offences Act.

Candidates and parties contesting elections are expected to strictly observe the electoral laws and regulations that attract harsh penalties for violators.

State resources

Besides candidates and political parties, State officers, agents, members and supporters are also bound by the code that aims to promote a conducive environment for free and fair elections.

Those participating in elections or using public resources will be breaching the Election Offences Act that provides for election offences that include but not limited; to use of force or violence during the election period, bribery, undue influence, use of national security organs for political coercion, use of public resources, participation in elections by public officers and breach of the Electoral Code of Conduct.

Public officers who intend to contest in the General Election have until Wednesday, February 9th 2022 to resign.

Incitement

Players are further throughout the election period obliged to, among others, condemn and refrain from actions that may cause or involve violence and intimidation, avoid use of hate speech, language or any action that may lead to violence or intimidation.

Candidates have also been refrained from campaigning in places of worship or during burial ceremonies while parties have been warned against plagiarizing the symbols, colours or acronyms of other parties; removal or destruction of political campaign materials of any party.

Other rules include refraining from offering any document or reward in order to influence one’s political decision; refrain from abuse of position of power, privilege or influence; and avoid discrimination in connection with the election and political activity.

Sanctions and penalties

IEBC has powers to impose penalties or sanctions for breach of the Code, including, a formal warning and a fine determined by the Commission.

It can also prohibit a political party from using any public media time allocated to it.

It also has the powers to prohibit a political party or candidate from holding public meetings or entering an electoral area to canvas for membership or other electoral purposes and also from publishing or distributing campaign literature including erecting placards and banners.

A party that defaults in payment of a fine may be prohibited by the Commission from participating in the 2022 general election or future elections until the fine is paid.

In case of failure to comply with any other sanction imposed, the Commission may cancel the right of the political party or candidate in question to participate in the next election.

However the power to order investigations and prosecute contravention of the Election Offences Act rests with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution

Use of the Commission Logo in Political Activities

The Commission has further expressed concern over the growing trend of aspirants using its Logo on their campaign posters and billboards.

The chair has termed the act illegal, as it contravenes the constitutional standing of the Commission as an independent, impartial and non-partisan institution.





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