, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 14 – It now appears that Prime Minister Raila Odinga is eager to use the option of dissolving the coalition government to pave way for a definite date for the country’s general elections following a High Court decision on Friday, that fulleled uncertainty over when elections will be held.
The PM says he plans to meet President Mwai Kibaki to make the decision quickly to avoid keeping the country in unnecessary suspense now that the court had placed the task in their hands.
“We will look at the ruling with the President and then give a direction to the country. I think that the issue of election date is crucial for the people to know and the people should not be held in suspense,” he said.
A three-judge bench of the Constitutional Court, in a landmark ruling on Friday declared that Kenya will hold general elections by mid-March 2013, unless its coalition government is dissolved before then.
Justices Isaac Lenaola, Mumbi Ngugi and David Majanja however gave the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) the sole mandate to determine the exact date when the polls should be conducted.
“We are conscious that our findings may be unpopular with a section of Kenyans who have preconceived notions about the elections but we hasten to remind Kenyan that our undertaking is not to write or re-write the Constitution to suit popular opinion,” they said.
“Our responsibility is to interpret the constitution in a manner that remains faithful to its letter and spirit and give effect to its objectives.”
READ THE FULL RULING HERE.
The date of the general elections, the first since deadly post-poll violence four years ago, has sparked heated debate with rival politicians proposing wildly differing dates from August this year to March 2013.
Parliament “expires on 14 January 2013, the elections shall be held within 60 days of 15 January 2013,” Judge Isaac Lenaola said.
However, the polls could be held this year “within 60 days from the date on which the national coalition is dissolved by written agreement between the president and prime Minister,” Lenaola said in the ruling.
“I will be consulting with the President and then we will be making appropriate decision consistent with the interest of the country.” Odinga told the media at his Karen home on Friday.
The court’s date can still be challenged.
The decision “now introduces some level of certainty,” said Charles Nyachae, chairman of the Constitution Implementation Commission, after the ruling.
“The court has the final word on it. The process of interpretation is not an exact science. The important thing is that they took a decision,” he said.
Kenya plunged into violence after the December 27, 2007 general elections in which then opposition chief Raila Odinga — now prime minister — accused President Mwai Kibaki of having rigged his re-election.
Kibaki will not contest the next elections.
Kenya is also eagerly awaiting a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on whether it will proceed to trial against six prominent Kenyans suspected of organizing the post-electoral violence.
Two of the six — Uhuru Kenyatta, finance minister and the son of the country’s first president, and William Ruto, the former agriculture and higher education minister — intend to run for president in the poll.
“The court’s (ICC’s) ruling will introduce an additional — possibly crucial — factor into an already pivotal election,” the think tank International Crisis Group said in a report this week.
Charges against the six include murder, deportation, rape, inhumane acts, persecution and torture.
Political campaigning has already begun in Kenya with colourful rallies across the country.
Electoral rules have changed under the new constitution that provides for a devolved government, with Kenyans voting for governors and local assemblies for the first time.