, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 17- Kenyans will vote on March 4, 2013 in the first general elections under the new Constitution.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) made the announcement on Saturday morning saying it had become apparent that President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga could not agree on an earlier date.
IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan noted that the electoral team had made wide consultations on the touchy matter with several leaders including the two principals before settling on a March 2013 poll.
“It has become clear to the commission that there is no agreement between the two principals as required by the court judgment. The commission is therefore compelled to fix an election date within 60 days from the expiry of the term of the 10th Parliament,” he said.
“The commission hereby announces that the general elections will be held on Monday March 4, 2013,” he stated. (Read the full IEBC statement here).
Hassan who was accompanied by his commissioners as well as the Chief Electoral Officer James Oswago added that the commission saw it fit to remove any uncertainties over the next election date so as to facilitate electoral preparations as well as the enactment of the electoral laws.
He noted that there was need to have a definite electoral date to give public officers intending to vie for the elective posts adequate time to resign from office.
“There are certain statutory electoral processes including the requirement for public officers intending to contest in the elections to resign from office at least eight months before the elections,” he noted.
“There is also the requirement for potential candidates to refrain from participating in public fund raising or Harambee within eight months preceding a general election,” he added.
The announcement drew several reactions from the public with some supporting it while others criticised it.
The IEBC chairman however maintained that the commission stood guided by the High Court’s ruling on the election date, which effectively allowed it to announce the next poll date in the event that the president and prime minister failed to give direction.
“We are going by a constitutional Court ruling so while we appreciate the concerns raised we are simply going by the Court ruling which requires us to hold elections within 60 days from the date when Parliament’s term ends,” he said.
Among the concerns raised over a 2013 poll is that it will prolong the life of the current Executive and Parliament while cutting short the lifeline of the incoming one.
Those in favor of a March 2013 election on the other hand argue that it will give current Parliament ample time to conclude its term and also give the country more time to prepare for the elections and set up devolution structures.
“These issues were canvassed before the constitutional Court which considered all the arguments before making a ruling and so we are simply looking at the end ruling of the Court,” maintained Hassan.
Moreover, the matter surrounding the election date is currently before the Court of Appeal after a group of women rushed court seeking to quash the decision made by the High Court.
Hassan however said that if the Court of Appeal issued a fresh ruling and a new election date, then the commission would follow it.
He also dismissed the appeal saying the applicants were not party to the ruling issued by the High Court.
Before the statement was issued, Odinga sent a statement to newsrooms (See related story) saying he wanted elections held in December 2012.
He argued that polls in March would interfere with learning schedules – since voting takes place in schools – and farming activities.