, NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 27 – Kenyans in the Diaspora will not cast votes for their preferred presidential candidate on March 4, 2013 after all.
Constitutional Affairs Minister Eugene Wamalwa told Parliament that the Cabinet had arrived at the decision after considering the impracticability in meeting strict electoral timelines.
It followed consideration of the preparedness of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to handle the massive exercise of registration of voters locally and abroad, he said.
The government cited logistical, financial and time constraints as the main reason for the setback.
“Kenyans in the Diaspora will not vote in the 2013 elections,” Wamalwa made it clear on Tuesday.
“It is not practical to have them take part now. I am appealing to those who can come home to register to do so,” the minister said.
Already, Parliament had passed rules to guide the registration of voters in the Diaspora.
He also stated that the official number of Kenyans in the Diaspora registered with the 52 Kenyan embassies stood at 130,000.
He termed as an exaggeration claims that there were over three million registered Kenyans in the Diaspora.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs however estimates the number of Kenyans in foreign countries stands at 700,000 including those not listed at embassies.
In the statement that caught MPs unawares, the minister said it was not practical to have the population in the Diaspora exercise their voting rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
MPs Martha Karua, Boni Khalwale, Millie Odhiambo and Augustino Neto accused the Cabinet of usurping the Constitution by declaring that certain Kenyans can’t vote.
Odhiambo said that the Cabinet must not be allowed to decide what provisions under the Constitution should be implemented in a progressive manner.
“If we let them misbehave with Diaspora voting and the gender rule, we don’t know what is next,” she said.
Karua said the Cabinet was interfering with the independence of the IEBC, which she claimed had set aside 47 Biometric Voter Registration kits to be used for the purpose of listing Diaspora voters.
Khalwale stood on a point of order and called on the speaker to make a finding that the Cabinet could not change the law without passing through Parliament.
Temporary Speaker Ekwe Ethuro said that the minister was only delivering the Cabinet’s opinion on the topic that legislators had asked for. He urged Khalwale to seek the determination on its legality through other avenues.
Neto claimed that the Cabinet was using the issue of Diaspora votes to see to it that the March 4 polls are postponed. But Wamalwa denied this assertion saying that nothing short of a constitutional amendment will see the polls shift from the current date.
He said the Constitution was clear that the elections should be held 60 days after the end of the term of Parliament, which in the case of the 10th Parliament will be January 14.
High Court Judge David Majanja last week ruled that although the right to vote is guaranteed constitutionally, it was not absolute and cannot be realised instantaneously but progressively.
Many Kenyans in the Diaspora were looking forward to registering as voters to participate in the March 4, 2013 general election.