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MPs begin debate on opinion polls Bill

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 7 – MPs on Wednesday begun debate on a Bill which seeks to outlaw the release of opinion polls two days before elections.

The Bill also says media houses which publish or broadcast the polls will be required to disclose the sponsor of the opinion polls and the level of education of people who were sampled.

The Electoral Opinion Poll Bill sponsored by Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale seeks to rein in what has been claimed by some politicians as lack of a scientific threshold in local surveys.

Khalwale argues that rich politicians and business people have used opinion polls in the past to manipulate election results to their benefit or to suit their preferred candidates.

Khalwale claims opinion polls create a bandwagon where voters tend to favour those alleged to be leading by the pollsters.

He said the charged atmosphere experienced in the country culminating to the post election violence in the 2007 was largely attributed to extensive opinion polls conducted at the time.

The debate was however cut shot due to a quorum hitch when Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni was seconding it.

If the Bill is passed, anyone contravening the 48-hour gag order will face a fine of Sh500,000 or a one year jail term.

Any media house that announces the survey results 48 hours before the elections will be fined Sh500,000 or its boss jailed for one year.

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While seconding the Bill, Kioni said that if opinion polls were announced within 48 hours to the election date, it would sway the minds of voters and this was likely to trigger violence should a candidate primed in the polls as the most popular lose in the elections.

Pollsters have questioned the spirit of the Bill, but said they will support it if it was aimed at regulating the industry to ensure firms were not set up by politicians to issue survey results on the eve of elections.


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