January 13, 2012
Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) — Kenya’s High Court ruled that the country can delay elections until March 2013 and left it up to the coalition government to decide the date.
Presidential and parliamentary voting should take place within 60 days of the expiry of the current assembly or the dissolution of the government, Judge Isaac Lenaola, speaking on behalf of a three-member panel, told reporters today in the capital, Nairobi. That means a vote can be held this year, if President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga agree to dissolve their coalition, or it can be delayed until after parliament’s current term ends on Jan. 14, 2013, he said.
Kenya’s 17-month-old constitution stipulates that the vote be held on the second Tuesday of August. Petitioners to the court, including Kenyan lawmaker John Harun Mwau and Milton Mugambi Imanyara, a lawyer, had requested a ruling on the date after the Cabinet proposed in September that elections be held on the third Monday of December every fifth year.
The next general election will be the first since ethnic clashes erupted over allegations of vote-rigging in December 2007. The violence deterred tourists and caused economic growth to slow to 1.7 percent in 2008, from 7.1 percent a year earlier.
The new constitution is a result of a power-sharing accord reached in February 2008 that ended two months of fighting in which an estimated 1,500 people died and another 300,000 were forced to flee their homes. Kibaki has said he will step down when his second, five-year presidential mandate ends.
Six Kenyans accused of masterminding the clashes are awaiting a ruling by the International Criminal Court’s pre- trial chamber on whether charges of crimes against humanity against them will be confirmed. The accused, including Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and lawmaker William Ruto, both of whom are presidential aspirants, all deny the allegations.
The ruling has bolstered the independence of the judiciary, and it demonstrates the court’s authority over constitutional matters, Charles Nyachae, chairman of the Constitutional Implementation Commission, told reporters today in Nairobi.
“What is important is that the issue is determined in the proper way, and the correct forum is the court,” he said. “It now introduces some level of certainty on the issue.”
–Editors: Paul Richardson, Ben Holland.
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