Bloomberg News

Kenyan Constitution Body Rejects Election Date-Change Plan

September 16, 2011

(Updates with comment by commission in third paragraph.)

Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- A Kenyan body set up to oversee the implementation of the country’s constitution urged lawmakers to reject a proposed amendment to alter election dates, saying the change would undermine the one year-old charter.

Kenya’s Cabinet on Sept. 13 proposed holding national elections on the third Monday of December every fifth year, instead of on the second Tuesday of August as stipulated in the constitution.

“The proposed amendment will lead to uncertainty in the electoral process,” the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, based in Nairobi, said in a statement published in the Daily Nation newspaper today.

A new constitution was one of the key elements of a peace accord signed in February 2008 that ended two months of ethnic fighting following a disputed presidential election. At least 1,500 people died in the violence, while a further 300,000 were forced to flee their homes. The charter replaced a constitution that dated to Kenya’s independence from Britain in 1963.

The Cabinet wants the election date changed because of the time needed to delineate constituencies and to align the vote with the country’s budget cycle, according to a statement on the government’s website.

‘Alarmed’

The commission, an independent body whose members were vetted by Kenya’s parliament last year, said the contention that a review of boundaries could not be completed in time for the elections “cannot be a basis for the constitutional amendment.” It is also “alarmed” about the use of the budget cycle to justify a change to the election date.

“If the budget cycle does not fit into the constitutional framework, what requires alignment with the constitution is the budget cycle, not the constitution,” the commission said.

Kenya’s parliament is currently in recess and resumes on Oct. 11.

Piecemeal changes to Kenya’s first constitution after independence resulted in the document becoming “a pale shadow of its original self,” the commission said.

“If Kenyans accept amendments such as the one on the election date proposed by the Cabinet, whose effect is clearly to claw back and undermine the constitution, the nation will have started on a slippery slope which could well sign the death knell of the new constitutional dispensation.”

Alfred Mutua, spokesman for Kenya’s government, said he couldn’t immediately comment when contacted today on his mobile phone in Washington, where President Mwai Kibaki is attending a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

--Editors: Alastair Reed, Gordon Bell.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Richardson in Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net


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