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Kenya Parliament Begins Vetting Prospective Electoral Commission Chair Candidates

Kenya's parliament will begin vetting prospective candidates to lead an interim Independent Electoral Commission ahead of the 2012 general election. Kenyans have been demanding an independent electoral body to conduct a transparent and credible election after the former chairman of the current Electoral Commission Samuel Kivuitu declared incumbent President Mwai Kibaki winner of the 2007 general election, plunging the country into chaos.

The crisis led to an international intervention led by former U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan who brokered a peace deal that led to the formation of the current unity government. Parliament then overwhelmingly voted to sack Chairman Kivuitu and his 21 commissioners for bungling the 2007 general election.

Koigi Wamwere is a former member of Kenya's parliament. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that Kenyans will be following Tuesday's vetting process with rapt attention.

"I think it will be something similar to what we had the last time, but, I suppose that the package will be try to be a lot more careful. Of course they will be trying to give their opponents the advantage. So they will be picking a candidate or they will be trying to pick a candidate who will conduct an election that is free and fair without any prejudice to themselves," Wamwere noted.

He said most Kenyans would be expecting the next chairman of the electoral commission not to serve at anybody's beck and call.

"I think they will be expecting complete political neutrality from the chair of the electoral commission and equally with the electoral commission itself because remember this would not only be the electoral commission chair, there would be commissioners, and all together must be extremely neutral in any election that they will conduct," he said.

Wamwere blamed Kenyan politicians for the crisis that ensued after the 2007 general election.

"I think it is important here to remember that the elections were not just messed up by the electoral commission. They were also messed up largely by the politicians themselves. So, I think that we have to be careful not to expect miracles from the electoral commission. If there were any rigging then it was rigging that was instigated by the politicians' themselves," Wamwere pointed out.

He said there was need for parliament to ensure laws and regulations that would make the interim electoral commission effective in organizing transparent elections.

"Yes, they should create such rules and regulations and laws that would ensure complete impartiality. But I really don't believe that the political forces in the country right now are actually looking forward to a completely independent and neutral and impartial commission. I think if you watch the two political forces that would be involved in this election, through their members of parliament and chair of the election, I think both of them are hoping that they will have a commission that will lean to their side. A commission that will conduct elections in their favor and that is what each side will want from this commission," he said.

Wamwere described the political situation in Kenya as immature and unprepared for an independent electoral commission.

"I don't think we have attained the kind of maturity that will put us in a position where we will be able to say let the best person win in whatever election or people who are ready to accept defeat graciously," Wamwere noted.