The Nation (Nairobi)

20 November 2011

Kenya: Cabinet to Pull Out Bill On Polls Date

It is now emerging that next year' s election may well be held in December after all. That follows a ruling by the speaker that a bill seeking to ... ( Resource: Elections Date Tussle Plays Out in Parliament

A draft law seeking to change the election date from August to December may be withdrawn from Parliament to allow for more consultations on the matter.

The Nation has established that there has been behind the scenes pressure for the Cabinet to shelve the Bill which seeks to amend the Constitution.

"If we think that will help the process, why not?" Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee chairman Abdikadir Mohammed said, noting that discussions were on-going on the matter regarding the way the committee will handle the constitutional amendment.

The bid to change the law has caused fresh tensions between the ruling coalition partners.

CIOC is said to be planning to summon President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, or their representatives over the matter.

Informal talks

Preliminary informal talks between Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo and some members of the CIOC, held the view that putting pressure on the minister to shelve the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2011, was not the best way to tackle the matter.

The Bill proposes the change of the election date from the second Tuesday of August to the third Monday of December of every fifth year. It also seeks to deliver a formula on how to achieve the two-thirds cap on gender in elective seats.

"The minister was not the only decision-maker in this matter. It was a Cabinet decision (to amend the Constitution)," said Mr Mohammed.

The committee, he added, was looking at other options to pursue to ensure that the Bill was withdrawn from the House in order for consultations on it to be held.

The committee has already said it won't back the Bill in its form, because there was no point of amending the Constitution just "to clarify the date of the next elections".

A case on when the next elections should be held is pending before the High Court.

The committee has also said that the provision on gender has to be revised to ensure that the there is no indefinite number of MPs in the next Parliament, an eventuality that will arise if the Cabinet's proposal on gender is okayed by the House.

MPs have termed the Bill as illegal, unconstitutional and unprocedural; but the Justice minister has defended it saying it had not contravened any written law or the procedure prescribed when amending the Constitution under article 256.

House Speaker Kenneth Marende is scheduled to put an end to the push and pull between the opposing sides when he makes a ruling Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Mohammed said the committee had asked the minister to pull the Bill out of the House given the hostility it had received.

"The chances of the Bill being defeated are very high, even if the Speaker agrees that it be tabled for the First Reading. The problem is, if the Bill is defeated when it comes for the Second Reading in February, what happens?" he posed.

He said the issue of gender and the election date were "live issues" that ought to be dealt with cautiously.

He said the committee will keep meeting to work out options that will end the current controversy over the election date and on how to implement the gender provisions as enshrined in the Constitution.

The committee may end up calling the bigshots in the Cabinet to advise them that the Bill may not see the light of day, if steamrollered in the House.

Since the promulgation of the Constitution 15 months ago, the CIOC has engaged the Cabinet through the Head of Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary, Mr Francis Muthaura.

Mr Mohammed noted that the committee was aware of the need to sort out the gender mathematics, but that can only happen after consultations that will, hopefully, lead to a workable formula.

"You can be sure that if this Bill goes ahead and fails, we in the committee will not be celebrating," he said.

The committee backs a December election date, only that, it is sure that the elections can happen without the Constitution being amended.

The CIOC is scheduled to meet the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, whose chairman Issack Hassan, has warned that it "will be difficult" to hold the General Election in August 2012.

The commission, he said, needed ample time to come up with the 80 new constituencies, draw up new constituency and ward boundaries, register voters in all the 290 constituencies, and procure materials for the elections.

The ideal date, the IEBC chairman said, is sometime in December 2012

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