Courts or President to determine referendum over poll date change

August 20, 2015 3:33 pm
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In his communication to the House, Muturi said the Constitution is not clear on whether changing the date of the general elections from August to December every five years amounts to altering the term of office of the President/FILE
In his communication to the House, Muturi said the Constitution is not clear on whether changing the date of the general elections from August to December every five years amounts to altering the term of office of the President/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi on Thursday refrained from ruling whether amending the Constitution to push forward the election date will require a referendum.

In his communication to the House, Muturi said the Constitution is not clear on whether changing the date of the general elections from August to December every five years amounts to altering the term of office of the President.

“The determination as to whether a Bill proposing to amend the Constitution requires a referendum in terms of Article 255 and Article 256 of the Constitution is outside the purview of the Speaker and therefore the Speaker shall not determine whether or not this is a bill that requires to be referred to a referendum,” the Speaker told the MPs.

MPs were on Wednesday split over whether a constitutional Bill seeking to push the election date from the second Tuesday of August to the third Monday of December every five years should be subjected to a referendum or not.

The Constitution stipulates that the General Election will be held on the second Tuesday of August every five years.

Majority Leader Aden Duale and Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chairman Samuel Chepkonga asked Muturi to rule on the two matters considering that the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the election of the next President should be held on the second Tuesday of August every five years.

They cited that the Supreme Court affirmed through a court case filed by former Kilome MP Harun Mwau and three others vs the Attorney General in 2012 that election of the President should be held on the second Tuesday of August every five years.

“The effect of this Bill could be to push term of President from 2nd August 2017 to third Monday of December the same year. The court clearly stated that any Bill whose effect is to increase the term of President under Article 251(1) require a referendum,” Duale said.

Ugenya MP David Ochieng, the sponsor of the Bill, defended the push of the date saying the August poll will interfere with the budget cycle, the national examination calendar and peak tourism season.

The Speaker’s Communication Officer Paul Mugambi clarified Muturi’s ruling saying that matter can be determined by either the President or the Judiciary.

“The long and short of it is that the President shall determine whether the matter goes to the referendum in line with Article 255 or such determination is made by courts under Article 165. The Speaker ensures procedure in passage,” Mugambi explained.

Muturi also ruled that MPs will not be allowed to make further amendments to the constitutional amendment Bill during the Committee of the Whole House Stage slated for Tuesday next week.

“It is my finding that I will not allow any amendments to the Bill proposed by the Ugenya MP or indeed any of the four published bills proposing to amend the Constitution,” he stated.

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