Kenya PM’s party clinches three seats in Parliament

Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s party won three parliamentary seats on Thursday after by-elections that went peacefully despite fears of a repeat of violence seen in the crisis after Kenya’s presidential poll.

The party of President Mwai Kibaki, which formed a coalition government with Odinga in April to end the crisis after December’s vote, won two seats after five by-elections on Wednesday, a statement from Kibaki’s office said.

International observers were closely watching proceedings in the first voting in Kenya since Kibaki’s disputed re-election sparked violence that killed at least 1 300 people, displaced 300 000 more and paralysed key sectors of the economy.

Wednesday’s voting and the overnight tallying appeared to have gone smoothly, although armed police in riot gear with dogs patrolled polling stations in case of trouble.

”I am glad it was peaceful, it looks like Kenya may finally get back to normal … and it seems this time the ECK [Electoral Commission of Kenya] seems to have got its act together,” said Grace Muchiri, an auditor.

The Kibaki-Odinga coalition has kept the peace and allowed Kenya’s economy, the largest in East Africa, to begin recovering from the impact of a crisis expected to knock about three points off last year’s growth figure of 7%.

Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) clinched the three provincial seats of Ainamoi, Wajir North and Emuhaya.

Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) won the Kilgoris seat near the Masai Mara game reserve, and Nairobi’s Embakasi constituency, formerly an ODM stronghold.

ODM and PNU share roughly equal numbers in Kenya’s parliament.

Chaotic aftermath
The by-elections were to fill seats where two ODM legislators were shot dead and another two constituencies that were undeclared in the chaotic aftermath of December’s vote.

The fifth seat is that of Kenya’s parliamentary speaker, who was obliged to resign from his constituency seat after getting the speaker’s chair.

Another two ODM legislators — Roads Minister Kipkalya Kones and Home Affairs Assistant Minister Lorna Laboso — were killed in a plane crash on Tuesday. No plans have yet been announced to fill their seats.

Despite the relative peace in the coalition, rival party officials have bickered over issues like amnesty for crimes in the post-election period, and have also had embarrassing public tussles over protocol issues during rallies and ceremonies. – Reuters

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