NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 9 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is now calling on President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to dissolve the coalition government by October to pave way for a December poll.
IEBC chairman Issack Hassan told journalists on Thursday that he would make a formal request to the two principals on Friday, arguing that their silence on election date was worrying.
Hassan, who was speaking after handing over a revised report on delimitation of boundaries to the parliamentary Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, added that the two had to break their silence on the next polls date so that the country can make adequate preparations. (Peruse the report here).
“It is now up to the principals to help the country and avoid the suspense because it is now unnecessary suspense. They need to come out very clearly and tell us when they intend to dissolve the coalition so that people can start preparing themselves,” he said.
He pointed out that civil servants who intended to vie for political office needed to be informed well in advance about the next elections so that they can resign from their positions.
“It will also help political parties to plan themselves and we (IEBC) will also be able to fix a date for the elections so the ball is in their (principals’) court,” he added.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga however urged Kenyans not to be anxious about the date of the elections saying he and President Kibaki “will act in the best interest of the country on the issue.”
Speaking after a meeting with elders from communities in Trans Nzoia County at the Kitale Club, the PM said the country’s preparedness for elections was a critical consideration in determining the date.
Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo has already voiced his support for a March 2013 poll.
“I don’t want to participate in another flawed election and I know that a December election would still be tight for Kenyans so now that a window has been created for an election in March, I am even more excited,” he said in an earlier interview with Capital News.
Last month, the High Court partially put the fate of the next poll date on the President and Prime Minister saying they were the ones to determine when to dissolve the coalition government in order to allow the IEBC call for a specific election date.
The court also ruled that the Constitution allowed the current Parliament to run its full term, which expires on January 15 next year. In that event, an election should be held within 60 days, placing March as a possible polls date.
The ruling was however met with criticism by Kilonzo together with several lobby groups who felt that it was wrong for the High Court to place the fate of the elections on the principals.
“Kenyans never wanted to give the Executive a secret weapon with which to hold them at ransom; that’s why we did away with the old Constitution. So the High Court giving the two principals that weapon is amending the Constitution through the back door,” argued Center for Rights Education and Awareness chairperson, Ann Njogu.
The civil societies have also moved to court to appeal against the decision by the High Court.
The IEBC recently received Sh2 billion from the United Nations Development Programme and other donors, to lay the ground for the general election. The funds are aimed at facilitating the on-going delimitation of boundaries exercise, voter education, electoral operations, and building peace in the hotspots that have experienced political violence every election year.
Hassan further listed the tight timelines set aside for the setting up of new boundaries in addition to Kenyans’ demands over the new electoral units as some of the challenges that the commission faced.
“The time was short and this posed a tremendous challenge to the IEBC particularly with respect to the full understanding of its mandate. Public expectations were also very high and sometimes unrealistic,” he said.
While receiving the IEBC report on Thursday, Legal Affairs Committee vice chairperson Njoroge Baiya announced that the committee would collect written memoranda from the public on the revised boundaries report once it was published.
He however said that the window set aside for the submissions would be closed on February 17, in order to ensure that the tight timelines were met.
“We will open a limited room for further consultations among parliamentarians and other Kenyans, who may feel that there is anything that has not been taken into account. But we will only accept written memoranda; no public hearings,” he stressed.
The forthcoming elections will also be challenging for Kenyans as they will for the first time vote in six tier election. See related story here.