, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga now says Parliament will decide the date of the next General Election.
Odinga told MPs on Wednesday that the election was too important an issue to be left at the discretion of him and President Mwai Kibaki alone.
The PM’s disclosure follows a recent court ruling that the General Election can only be held in 2012 if the President and the Prime Minister agree in writing to dissolve the Grand Coalition Government.
The court also ruled that the Constitution foresees the elections in 2012, but within sixty days after the end of the term of Parliament which is set to expire on January 15.
“We feel the election is too important to be left to the discretion of the Principals but should involve the National Assembly. As such, we will be bringing a Bill to this House so that members can debate and participate in fixing the date of elections once and for all,” he said in his address to Parlaiement on Wednesday afternoon.
The PM pointed out that Kenyans were excited about the democratic transformation that the country was making and it was incumbent on both the Executive and the Legislature to deliver.
Odinga challenged MPs to rise to the challenges and enact all the necessary legislations that will hasten implementation of the Constitution.
Odinga’s statement came within hours of an appeal by church leaders that called on him together with President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to end anxiety over the date of elections by communicating the way forward after the court ruling on the election date.
Last Friday the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) wrote to the President and the PM to dissolve the coalition government by October to pave way for a December poll.
At the same time, Kenyans are currently sharing their views on a Constitutional Amendment Bill seeking to change the election date from August to December. The Bill which was sponsored by the government through Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo is awaiting debate in the House after it was read for the first time before the December recess.
The Bill wants the date of the next General Elections designated as December 17, 2012 and that of the subsequent polls to be moved from “the second Tuesday in August” as stipulated in the Constitution, to the “third Monday in December every fifth year”.
During his statement on Wednesday, the Prime Minister thanked MPs who on Tuesday voted unanimously to shorten the publication period for a number of key Constitution implementation Bills so that debate can begin.
He singled out the Land, Devolution and Public Finance Bills as being crucial and said they must be passed in the next two weeks since land management remains a thorny issue in the conscience of the nation.
He urged the MPs not to be driven by fear of the unknown when it comes to Land, Public Finance and Devolution Bills, saying they should think of the known damages that over centralisation has inflicted on Kenyans.
He said, “Let us listen to the cries of the people of the Coast who are saying, “Pwani si Kenya” because they feel deliberately marginalised and left behind. Let us think of that family in Msambweni whose sole bread winner committed suicide because he was facing eviction from the only land generations of his family have known.”
“Let us think of the people of North Eastern who barely have an inch of tarmac, fifty years after independence,” he added.
Once again Odinga cautioned MPs not to exploit conflicts for political gains, saying they should use their offices to unite Kenyans.
He however hastened to note that legislation alone will not solve all the land problems and other related conflicts adding alternative conflict resolution mechanism are also necessary.
While appreciating that the country’s economy falls back into negligible growth every single election year, Odinga asked MPs to speak loudly and demonstrate to investors that there is nothing to be feared and the elections will be completely peaceful.
The PM at the same time ruled out unnecessary election spending by government as witnessed in other election years, saying there should be no fears that government spending may rise in the election year as often observed in the past.
“With our collective efforts, I am confident that our economy will grow by more that five per cent this year,” he quipped.
He said a Bill will be submitted to Parliament this week on Public Financial Management which had taken much time because of the desire to ensure that the much needed fiscal discipline will be observed throughout the counties, with the oversight of the national treasury.
The PM further explained that the government will establish the Transition Authority as soon as the relevant Bill is passed to provide for immediate arrangements for the establishment of the county governments.