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Politicians Harambee ban starts tonight

Posted by Administrator on December 14, 2011

ASPIRANTS for political office have until midnight today to conduct their last harambee or risk being disqualified before or after the election. The Elections Act 2011 prohibits anyone aspiring for political office from participating in a fundraising eight months before the election. This applies to all levels of office from president, governor, senator, MP, women representative to councillor.

The election date is still officially August 14 according to the new constitution. Therefore the eight-month cut-off date takes effect today. The government wants to change the election date to December 17 but the Bill to amend the constitution is currently before Parliament and the High Court is yet to rule on the matter. “The polls officially and legally are in August 2012. The matter of aspirants being banned from harambees is so serious that some politicians have already bought recording equipment and video cameras to record their opponents who will conduct or send contributions to harambees after this Wednesday,” a politician from Central province told the Star.

The recordings can then be used in evidence to disqualify their opponents before or after the elections, either through the IEBC or the courts. Chairman Ahmed Isaack Hassan has said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will be monitoring harambees and fundraising events.

He warned those contesting political office not to violate the Elections Act. “The Commission has a role to ensure that the rules are followed. For example, candidates must not participate in public fundraising or harambees eight months before the general election,” said Isaack in a statement on Monday detailing the time line for 2012.

Political aspirants are banned from attending harambees for funerals, weddings, school fees, development projects or any other fundraiser that is not directly connected to politics. The aspirants are however free to organise a fundraising to raise money for their own campaigns or for their political parties.

Clause 26 (1) of the Act provides that, “A person who directly or indirectly participates in any manner in any public fundraising or harambee within eight months preceding a general election or during an election period, in any other case, shall be disqualified from contesting in the election held during that election year or election period.” The ban on harambees was introduced in the Act after some ministers and MPs complained that their rivals were embarrassing them by contributing huge amounts of cash just before an election.

In September some ministers argued that the ban on harambees might antagonise schools and churches but they were dismissed by their colleagues. “Our names are put on cards as guests of honour without our knowledge and sometimes we are very embarrassed especially when we produce little in the form of donations,” said a Cabinet minister yesterday. “In most cases, our rivals often have more funds in store as they are aware of the events ahead of time and sometimes they are the main instigators for such events,” added the minister.

The ministers and MPs also argued that some churches had started organising harambees just before an election and including the names of elected leaders on the invitation cards without their knowledge or consent. Former Cabinet minister and Nyeri senator aspirant Mutahi Kagwe said yesterday that the Elections Act was still unclear on several key issues. “Harambees are banned in an election period, according to the Act. But what is an election period? Is it the eight months before the polls? Is it the three months between Parliament being prorogued to the election day? Is it the 21-day campaign period? The Act talks of an election period but nowhere does it define what this period is,” he said.

Kagwe raised questions about the Act’s ambiguity in the clause banning candidates from hosting their supporters. “The Act allows that a candidate can raise money for his campaign. But what is that money for? What can you spend the money on? If people come to my house and I give them tea, which is normal, is that an offence?” he asked. “How do you define who got tea as my guest and who drank the tea in order to vote for me? Under what circumstances will it be regarded as treating guests and bribery?” he added.

Fisheries minister Amason Kingi predicted that many politicians will be disqualified. “The Act is clear but many candidates have not read the law. The door is closed to harambees unless the law is amended to push the elections to December 2012,” he said. “You have your campaign team and even your supporters coming to see you. You cannot make them wait the whole day and give them nothing. It is remuneration for work they have done for you. The problem is when you induce someone to vote for you,” Amason added.

Lawyer Paul Muite, the likely presidential candidate for Safina, said the harambee ban was fine but still had loose ends including the election date. “The recent by-elections are example of how to buy electoral victory. What Kenyans and electoral agencies should be concentrating on is establishing how these aspirants have got the money,” he said. “Stopping aspirants from contributing to harambees is window dressing. They will just circumvent this by using their friends and relatives to launder the money,” he said.

Source: http://www.the-star.co.ke/national/national/53817-harambee-ban-for-politicians-starts-today

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