, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 17 – The announcement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that elections will be held on March 4, 2013 has sharply divided politicians.
Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi observed that the IEBC was working within its mandate when it set the election date to March next year.
Speaking in Nyeri, Mudavadi said the commission followed the proper procedure before announcing the date.
He pointed out that the IEBC consulted the president and prime minister and also took the recent court ruling into account.
“What I know is that he was quoting the process of him having consulted with the two principals based on the court ruling and then he indicated that the two principals failed to agree and therefore he was exercising an option,” he stated.
He underscored the need for debate now to be focused on how prepared the electoral body was to conduct free, fair and transparent elections.
“What is more important as we move ahead is for us to start looking critically at how prepared the electoral body is to conduct a free and fair election. We do not just want to get a date. We want to get assurances and regular communication from the IEBC that the process is moving smoothly,” he said.
Gichugu Member of Parliament Martha Karua however opposed the March 2013 date, saying the extension of the term of the current Parliament would have a negative impact on Kenyans.
She stated that the announcement set a bad precedent as it was in the interest of a few individuals.
“It is a great disappointment and a letdown because elections are always held inside the term of office. If truly they were reacting to the court ruling and not anything else, they should have announced a date inside the January 15th limit. Better still, they could have waited for the outcome of the appeal filed by one lady’s organization,” Karua said.
She has called on the Court of Appeal to intervene and make a ruling which is acceptable to everyone.
She further urged all Kenyans to strongly oppose the proposed date in a bid to compel the IEBC to change it.
“I also urge Kenyans… let us stop sleeping on our rights because if we do that, they will be trampled upon. Let people speak out on the election date and force the election date to be within the term (of Parliament),” she said.
KANU Secretary General Nick Salat echoed her sentiments saying that the IEBC was wrong in selecting a date next year.
Salat stated that the announcement would bring a lot of confusion in the political scene since most people were advocating for a December election.
“In my opinion, I think it is wrong that instead of actually showing direction, they are sowing the seeds of confusion. But as KANU, we hope they are really reading the mood of the country and from what we took from our members, they are going for the December date,” he said.
He called on both the president and prime minister to consult and agree on an election date which is acceptable to everyone.
“We would not want in an election year to continue entering into a crisis and yet we are just from one. We would actually advocate for the two principals to sit together and come up with an appropriate middle ground for both so that the interest of the country is put far above that of individuals,” he said.
Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) chairman Abdikadir Mohammed on his part said that there should have been consensus building first before IEBC took the decision to announce the date.
He stressed the need to exercise caution since bold decisions can sometimes be reckless especially if they are unilateral.
He pointed out that IEBC should have got key players to agree on the dates so that the country moves forward in a unified manner.
Eldoret North legislator William Ruto also opposed the March 4 election date, saying most Kenyans prefer polls in December.
He said that IEBC should set the polling day in December since the president’s term ends then.
Saboti Member of Parliament Eugene Wamalwa and his Kangundo counterpart Johnson Muthama however supported the date and urged the youth to register for their identity and voter’s cards since the future of the country belonged to them.
Earlier on, the Orange Democratic Movement party issued a statement saying the Kenyan people preferred that the next general elections be held in December, as the Cabinet had previously recommended.
According to party secretary general Anyang Nyong’o, this will also be in line with the recent High Court ruling.
“The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission should avoid any temptation of serving any sectarian interests through extension of the life of the coalition government by fixing the date in March 2013,” he said in a statement.