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Polls date the new frontier for conflict between principals

Posted by Administrator on March 10, 2012

The announcement by President Kibaki that the General Election could be held next year points to a split with Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the election date. (READ: Kibaki’s poll bombshell)

The President’s declaration contradicts Mr Odinga’s publicly stated position that elections would be held this year. The PM has consistently alluded to a December date.

On February 15, the Prime Minister told MPs that they would have a say in deciding the election date.

“It is too important to be left to me and President Kibaki,” he told Parliament. “The government will soon table a Bill to allow MPs to decide the election date. We are not going to make an arbitrary decision by ourselves. Let the members of the House have a say.” (READ: Kibaki: Court ruled polls in 2013)

In an interview last week, Mr Odinga reiterated his position that the elections would be held in December and that Parliament would be involved in deciding the date.

In alluding to MPs’ involvement, the Prime Minister was referring to a Bill that is pending before the House whose objective is to amend the Constitution and fix the election date in December.

Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo introduced the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2011 to the House and it is expected back for debate mid this month.

Parliament’s oversight committee on implementation of the Constitution has been collecting public views on the minister’s proposals.

The team, chaired by Mandera Central MP Abdikadir Mohammed, sat on Wednesday to review the views and will present the report to the House, even with the new developments.

The committee has, however, been opposed to the amendment, arguing that changing the Constitution only a year after it was promulgated would send the wrong signal and pave the way for mutilation of the document as happened with the old one.

The proposals seek replace the second Tuesday August date with the third Monday of December in an election year.

In declaring that MPs would be involved in deciding the election date, Mr Odinga may have been sending the message that he would stand with the Cabinet decision for the amendment of the Constitution. It is the Cabinet that authorised Mr Kilonzo to take the Bill to Parliament.

While by the time of going to press we had not established whether President Kibaki and Mr Odinga had consulted and agreed on a date after the expiry of the 10th Parliament’s term in January, it is instructive that the latter has rejected the nominations of the chairperson and members of the National Police Service Commission citing non-consultation by the President.

Now, those in the know say Mr Odinga is not likely to raise public objection to the President’s position, which was announced while he was on his way back from Brussels.

“The PM is unlikely to raise issues with the President’s announcement. Although he has made his position clear on a December election, he was also prepared for a March date,” said a source with knowledge of the PM’s operations but who asked not to be named.

The President’s statement is a turnabout  from his earlier position as seen in his New Year and Jamhuri Day messages, in which he gave an indication that he favoured a December date.

It also contradicts the Cabinet’s position, which gave Mr Kilonzo the green light to draft the amendment Bill and set a December date. But, in defending his position for an election next year, President Kibaki, who has also supported Mr Kilonzo’s amendment Bill, explained that he did so in obeying the High Court’s directive.

In January the High Court ruled that the next General Election could be held in 2012 upon dissolution of the grand coalition or in 2013 after expiry of the current Parliament term.

Justices Isaac Lenaola, Mumbi Ngugi and David Majanja said the first elections under the new Constitution can lawfully be held in 2012 within 60 days from the date on which the national coalition will be dissolved by written agreement between the President and the Prime Minister. The judges said alternatively the election could  also be held within 60 days from the expiry date of the term of the current Parliament, which is January 15, 2013.

The Justice minister welcomed the President’s announcement, saying it was in order to respect the court’s decision. But he said he would seek direction from the Cabinet on his amendment Bill, which also seeks to change the Constitution to ensure that not more than two-thirds of MPs shall be of the same gender.

Mr Abdikadir Mohammed, while relieved that the Constitution may  not be amended after all, cautioned against a return to the days when the Executive controlled Parliament’s calendar.

Responding to the announcement on Saturday, Joint Government Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo described President Kibaki’s statement as inconsequential, saying that his ODM party wants elections in December.

“What powers was he using to announce the election date? Neither Kibaki nor Raila, and not even Parliament, has the powers to determine the election date,” the Gem MP said. He said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission should announce the date.

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/Polls+date+the+new+frontier+for+conflict+between+principals+/-/1064/1363770/-/hmuggjz/-/index.html

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