MPs divided over Bill to change 2017 General Election date
05 August 2015, 21:34
Nairobi – MPs are divided over an amendment to the Constitution seeking to move the constitutional five-year general elections time from the second Tuesday in August to 3rd December 2017.
The amendment sponsored by David Ochieng (Ugenya) caused divisions among the MPs where those opposed to it argued that the Parliament’s move would be illegal for not involving the public while those in its support said the proposed December date would not interfere with the country’s major activities including budget making process.
Ochieng in moving the motion on the floor of the House said the current August date greatly interferes with the examination calendar for students particularly in event of a run-off, the tourism sector where most western countries issue travel advisories to their citizens until elections are over.
However, Parliament’s attempt to change the election time would be futile since the Supreme Court earlier ruled for elections to be conducted as per the constitutional August period and the House’s passage of the amendment would extend the President’s term which would then require public participation through a referendum.
“It is not that when we propose elections to be done on 3rd December 2017 we intend to extend our term to get more salaries. This amendment Bill to the Constitution is not about extending the term of Parliament,” said Ochieng.
The Justice and Legal Affairs committee chairman, Samuel Chepkonga, who seconded the motion said the amendment was particularly important to “fellow members because it touches on their term” of public service.
However, he raised the concern that it seems impossible for the House to independently pass the amendment because it was in contravention of the law from the Supreme Court’s ruing and need for public participation.
Chepkonga pleaded with the substantive chairman, Moses Cheboi to rule on whether Parliament has powers to go on with the amendment on grounds that the Constitution ‘is silent’ on giving an appropriate direction.
National Assembly Majority Leader, Aden Duale said he had no problem with the passage of the amendment because it serves to extend their term of office by four months but warned that it would be somehow difficult.
“Extending the election time touches on the president and the governor’s term and needs to be subjected to referendum as per the Constitution. Also courts stated that any Bill extending the term of the president should be subjected to the Constitution,” warned Duale.
The MPs opposed to the proposed amendment particularly from the opposition side said the motion seeks to extend Jubilee government’s term yet the public are already tired of its administration for reneging on its manifesto.
“I oppose this proposed amendment to change the election time. This will be extending the government’s term to serve some MPs’ selfish interests of earning more salaries.
People are tire of this government because it has failed on crucial matters such as security,” said Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja).
If Parliament succeeds to amend the Constitution by moving the election date to December, it means the term for commissioners of the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will also be extended to conduct the elections because the commission term of service expires before December 2017.
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