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Appeal Court to get its say on poll date

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 19 – The Court of Appeal is on Thursday set to hear an application by women rights groups over the date of the next General Election.

This comes as the decision by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to set March 4, 2013 as the date for the first elections under the new Constitution, continues to generate heated debate with various sections of Kenyans either supporting or opposing it.

The lobby groups will be seeking a determination whether the High Court’s ruling that elections can be held 60 days after dissolution of the coalition government through a written agreement between the two principals or after the expiry of Parliament’s term was proper.

According to the rights groups, the latest possible date for the next General Election should be October 14, 2012 and the earliest should be August 14.

They contend that High Court judges Isaac Lenaola, David Majanja and Mumbi Ngugi erred in law and failed to do their calculations well.
They say the ruling by the High Court amounted to handing ‘secret ammunition’ to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga as it gives them opportunity to decide the next election date.

This, they said, goes against the sole purpose of the provision in the Constitution in relation to the election date.

Led by Ann Njogu, the groups say the judges failed to give Kenyans a definite answer that would guide them regarding the date of the first elections under the new Constitution.

In their appeal, they accuse the judges of failing to give meaning of the ‘fifth year’ in Article 101 of the Constitution and instead referred to the former Constitution to determine the date of expiry of the term of the current Parliament.

The High Court ruled that the term of the 10th Parliament ends on January 14 next year.

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The High Court was of the view that the elections can also be held after the expiry of the term of the 10th Parliament on the fifth anniversary of the day it first sat.

The current Parliament first sat on January 15, 2008 and its term will expire on January 14 next year. The elections can thereafter be held within 60 days after dissolution of Parliament.

The judges said in determining the date of the first election under the new Constitution, they made reference to Sections 9 and 10 of the Sixth Schedule.

The lobby groups aggrieved by the judgment argue that the bench did not give sufficient regard to the arguments for established constitutional conventions concerning the determination of the election date because ordinarily in Kenya, elections are held in the ‘fifth year’ of the term of Parliament.

The Court of Appeal, they say should stop the implementation of the High Court decision and give a certain date for the election.


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