Electoral dispute resolution, role of MPLCs

Last week we looked at the practice direction set by the Chief Justice abridging the time periods for handling election cases. This week we continue looking at electoral dispute resolution by focusing on Multiparty Liaison Committees (MPLCs). We will look at the background history, composition and functionality of the MPLCs. 

The idea to set up the MPLCs was mooted in the run up to the Local Government Elections in 2000 whereby the Commission was overwhelmed with complaints from electoral stakeholders. The Commission did not have capacity to timely address all complaints most of which were happening at the grassroots level. Thereby an idea was hatched to come up with structures that would manage and settle electoral disputes at district level. The MPLCs have proved to be effective since then and each and every council has its own committee.

The MPLCs are a grouping of leaders all political parties at district level (district chairpersons or governors), however, its composition changes during the elections period. Only parties that are featuring candidates are the ones recognized to be members. Independents candidates or their representatives are also incorporated into the MPLCs as members during the election period.

Apart from representatives of political parties, other members are District Commissioners or Chief Executives of councils, the Officer In‐Charge of Police, the District Education Manager, In‐charge of CID, National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) officer, District Information Officer, a representative of Public Affairs Committee, two Traditional Authorities and District Elections Clerks from MEC. The DC or CEO is always the chairperson while the Director of Administration at the council serves as the secretary.

The MPLCs have been over the years, more especially in the run up to elections, been trained in conflict management by MEC or other stakeholders. When there is an electoral dispute or complaint, which is not criminal in nature, the complainant is advised to take up the issue with the MPLC. The MPLCs have an advantage because they are based in the district thereby nearer to the scene of the problem; geographically, ideologically, culturally and politically. Depending on the nature and gravity of the issue, the complaint can be resolved by the MPLC if not then it is referred to the Commission. However, over years it has proved that most of the complaints have been ably, efficiently and timely resolved by the MPLCs to the satisfaction of all concerned parties. In such situation whereby an issue has been resolved by the MPLC, the MEC is furnished with a report of the resolution of the MPLC.

Next week we will look in detail the objectives pursued by MPLCs and cite case studies from the May 2014 elections.