Kenyans will go to the polls in March, 2013

Kenya’s next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on March 4 2013, its electoral commission said on Saturday, a vote sure to draw international scrutiny after communal bloodshed that followed a disputed 2007 ballot.

The next election will be the first since the 2007 vote that triggered fighting in which more than 1 220 people were killed, leading to prosecutions of prominent Kenyan political figures by the International Criminal Court.

It will also be the first election since the east African country adopted a new constitution.

The High Court surprised Kenyans by ruling in January that the election should be held in March 2013 and not this August as stipulated by the constitution — barring an early vote in case of a government collapse.

The electoral body that set the date conceded it could change if the coalition — created to end the bloodshed — unravels or if a legal challenge to the March poll date succeeds.


President Mwai Kibaki, who is barred by law from seeking a third term, and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who leads in opinion polls in the race to replace him, have been at odds over the election date, fraying their already shaky coalition.

Analysts said they expected more controversy despite the announcement of the precise election date, and that all eyes are now on Odinga, who had pushed to hold the vote in December, to see if he will walk out of the coalition.

This could trigger early elections.

Eager to vote
Polls show a majority of Kenyans still favour elections this year, keen to vote out some legislators they consider lazy, corrupt or greedy. Many Kenyans feel their lawmakers, among the best-paid in the world, have done little to develop the country.

Isaack Hassan, chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), said the date had been set after “extensive consultations” with the president and the prime minister. “There is no agreement between them,” he said.

But, he added, “the country needs to know the election date, we must remove the uncertainty, anxiety and suspense surrounding the date.”

Odinga said in a statement that he prefers December to any other date for elections.

Lawmaker Martha Karua, another presidential hopeful, said on her Twitter feed that she also disagreed with the IEBC date.

“Announcing a March poll when the appeal against election ruling is a few days away is a move to influence the outcome of the appeal,” Karua said on Twitter.

Rivals
Odinga’s main rival for the country’s helm is Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta.

Kenyatta quit as finance minister after the International Criminal Court (ICC) charged him with crimes against humanity over the 2007 election violence. Kenyatta rejects the charges.

He has united with a fellow accused, former higher education minister William Ruto, to block Odinga’s presidential bid.

“It is not matter of if, but when Odinga will leave the coalition,” Kwamchetsi Makokha, a political commentator, said.

“Odinga is more mentally prepared for an election, but Kenyatta and Ruto are somewhat distracted by legal issues surrounding the trial hanging over their head.”

The ICC is due to decide in May when their trial will commence. The suspects’ only hope to avoid trial is if the ICC grants their appeal to bar prosecuting them on the grounds that it has no jurisdiction over the cases.

Adams Oloo, a university lecturer on political science, said: “The date is more of an advantage to the opponents of the premier. They are not only facing the charges, but they are yet to decide who among the two will be their camp’s flag-bearer.” — Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

James Macharia
James Macharia works from Johannesburg via Nairobi. Reuters Bureau Chief Southern Africa, ex-deputy chief East Africa. My views. James Macharia has over 5484 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

‘Insult’ arrest kicks off poll race in Kenya

MPs’ detention may signal the silencing of dissent and a bid to railroad changes to the Constitution

Raila Odinga: The US and Europe cannot abandon their leadership roles

Today, the whole world stands where Europe was in 1945. Europe recovered then thanks to massive international assistance. That same attitude of cooperation and solidarity is needed now more than ever

The judge who defied Malawi’s government to stop the lockdown

Standing up to abuses of power runs in Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda’s blood

Why courts can’t save democracy in Africa

Recent judgments in Kenya and Malawi are encouraging. But democratic reform is impossible unless presidents and electoral commissions play their part

Discrediting elections: Why the opposition playbook carries risks

By pushing their usually valid complaints onto the streets and the courts, opposition leaders deny governments the popular goodwill and international credibility they need to govern effectively

Moi and the media: How Kenyan journalism suffered under his iron heel

The former president's stranglehold on the press made it very difficult for journalists to do their jobs
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Eastern Cape universities concerned by rising Covid cases

Fort Hare says 26 more students have tested positive while Walter Sisulu University says some of its students have been admitted to hospital.

SAA in talks to recoup R350-million in blocked funds...

The cash-strapped national carrier is in the process of recouping its blocked funds from Zimbabwe, which could go towards financing the airline’s business rescue plan

NSFAS’s woes do not help its mandate

Nehawu wants the scheme’s administrator, Randall Carolissen, to be removed

Unions cry foul over SABC dismissal costs and retrenchments

Broadcaster bodies say claims that a recent skills audit is unrelated to retrenchments are ‘irrational’
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday