NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 31 – The Court of Appeal on Tuesday upheld the decision by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to declare the next General Election for March 4, 2013.
The decision was in a majority ruling of four-to-one after Justice Martha Koome differed, arguing that elections should be held by January 15, 2013 at the latest.
Justices Hannah Okwengu, Kalpana Rawal and David Maraga agreed with the majority decision read by Justice Erastus Githinji to have the polls held within 60 days upon the expiry of the term of the current Parliament, which ends on January 14, 2013.
The High Court had in January ruled that the first polls since a disputed vote in December 2007 should be held either within 60 days of the dissolution of the Grand Coalition government or within 60 days after the expiry of the term of the current Parliament.
The Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) and the Caucus for Women’s Leadership appealed against the High Court ruling claiming that the judges misinterpreted the Constitution.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had set the date of the elections for March 4, 2013 after the Principals failed to give any guidance.
This was a headline from mid-June, almost four months ago.
Uncertainty over the date of the next General Election and lack of a substantive electoral body could expose the country to chaos.
This was the message of British high commissioner Rob Macaire to the principals and MPs on Thursday.
Mr Macaire said the country needed a transparent Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission that will restore confidence in national elections.
Speed up reform
The envoy noted that delays in passing key reform laws could undermine growth, and make investors shun the country.
And as we stand here in June 2011, still without an Electoral and Boundaries Commission in place for elections in 2012 and, above all, without an agreed date for those elections, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that political manoeuvring is taking us into the danger zone.
“No one wants to see the country go into elections with uncertainty or division over the fairness and transparency of the institutions governing the process,” Mr Macaire said.
Although the Supreme Court is set to begin preliminary hearings Tuesday on the question of the interpretation of the new constitution to determine the proper date for the first general election, the Cabinet with substantial support among MPs will seek to move its bill in Parliament to amend the constitution to set elections in
December rather than August. Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo says that it is already too late: “As the minister of Justice and in charge of election matters, I cannot give you an election in August .”
Anxiety is building in the august House over the date of the next polls with most of the MPs keen to stay in the House until the end of “their unexpired term” according to the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
While Cabinet ministers have vowed to push the Bill to amend the Constitution to alter the election date, some MPs among them Gatanga’s Peter Kenneth (left) and Gwassi’s John Mbadi have vowed that they will scuttle any plan to push for December elections.
On Monday, the Gwassi MP repeated the threats to oppose the Bill in the House, terming it as an “affront to the Judiciary”.
Unfortunately, the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission has not yet been established and potential members are being vetted, so there is clearly a lot of work remaining to get ready for the next election.
Kenyan Civil Society will need to play a key role in serving as a “watchdog” throughout the election preparations. Resources will be available from international donors to support the process, as they were in 2007, but as we have seen, these resources do not help if they are not ulimately used.