, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 14 – The Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) on Wednesday rejected a Cabinet plan to alter the date of the next general election, terming it mischievous and an act of impunity.
Speaking in Naivasha where the Commission is holding a two-day retreat, CIC chairman Charles Nyachae warned that the proposed constitutional amendment setting the elections date on the third Monday of December every fifth year of an elections cycle was a ploy by the Cabinet to dilute the Constitution.
He accused the Cabinet of putting political expediency before the interest and rights of the people of Kenya.
“Kenyans must not support constitutional amendments which advance narrow and selfish interests. Any amendments to the Constitution must enhance, not claw back on the letter and the spirit of the Constitution,” he told a news conference in Naivasha.
The Constitution currently sets the elections date on the second Tuesday of August on the fifth year of an elections cycle.
However, the Cabinet argued on Tuesday that the August date was not feasible as it interfered with the government’s budget cycle.
Nyachae however said the August election date has never been contentious and retorted that Kenyans knew of the budget cycle when they voted for the Constitution last year.
“If indeed the budget cycle does not fit into the constitutional framework, what requires alignment with the Constitution is the budget not the Constitution,” he affirmed.
The CIC has now written to Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai asking him to block the intended amendments.
However, the CIC has said it would support an amendment seeking to ensure the full application of the two-thirds gender principle for Parliament.
CIC Commissioner Kamotho Waiganjo said the Cabinet should also wait for the pending Supreme Court interpretation on the date of the next general elections.
“There is a pending application before the Supreme Court on the interpretation of the election date and the move by Cabinet in essence compromises that case,” Waiganjo said.
The five East African countries have a common financial calendar, which begins in July. Tanzania on its part held its last presidential and parliamentary elections on 31 October 2010, while Uganda conducted its polls on February 18 this year.
Burundi and Rwanda held there national polls in July and August 2010.
Speaking separately at Parliament buildings, Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa also voiced his opposition to the move saying that December elections had been used by previous regimes not to attract large voter turnout.
“The change of elections date by the KANU regime in 1988 was done for selfish reasons because the regime preferred low voter turnout because there are rains in that month and lots of people traveling during the (Christmas) festivities. It is totally an unsuitable date to hold elections and I will oppose it on the floor of the House.”
“It even defeats the rules of natural justice as Parliament is just being asked to prolong its life and we are going to be direct beneficiaries of our actions; it would have been proper if the amendment was moved by an organ independent of politics like the Supreme Court,” Wamalwa added.
Wamalwa also argued that with political will, the budget cycle could be changed without necessarily amending the Constitution as proposed by the Cabinet.
The controversy surrounding the general election date has seen several MPs, lawyers and the CIC differ sharply. While CIC chairman Charles Nyachae maintains that the next general election is to be held on August 14 next year – which is the second Tuesday of August as required by the constitution – a section of MPs insist that they should be held in 2013.
The MPs fronting for the 2013 election date cite the Sixth Schedule which states that the current Parliament shall serve the remainder of its term. The legislators argue that since the current Parliament officially took oath of office on January 15, 2008, its term ends on January 15, 2013.
According to Section 101 of the Constitution, general elections are to take place on the second Tuesday of August every five years.
Kenya’s last elections were held in December 2007 and it is widely expected that the upcoming elections will be held in December of next year.
Part 10 of the Transitional and Consequential Provisions says “The National Assembly existing immediately before the effective date shall continue as the National Assembly for the purposes of this constitution for its unexpired term.”