What you need to know:
- House warned it will be subverting the new Constitution if it chooses to ignore August 2012 deadline for the next elections
A push by MPs to have their term extended beyond the August 2012 date mandated in the new constitution continues to draw fire from various groups.
The MPs, supported by Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo and the leaders of key parliamentary committees responsible for implementation of the new constitution, argue that the current Parliament is protected from the proposed legislative calendar and must serve out its full term to December 2012, five years after it was elected.
Mr Kilonzo also come out to support a move by cabinet ministers to hold on to elected office in political parties in defiance of the new constitution.
On the parliamentary term, some even argued that Parliament can extend its term to February 2013, five years after the current House was inaugurated.
But their stand drew widespread condemnation.
Lawyers, politicians religious leaders and civil society accused lawmakers of violating the new constitution.
They vowed to mobilise Kenyans to resist such attempts by MPs and cabinet ministers, warning that attempts by MPs to prolong their stay in Parliament beyond the August 2012 date could plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.
Among those opposed to the move by the MPs are members of the Committee of Experts who drafted the new constitution, the Law Society of Kenya, and various church leaders.
According to Dr Ekuru Aukot, who was director of the Committee of Experts that wrote that new constitution, MPs have no grounds to argue that they must serve out the full five years. He accused them of engaging in “selective” interpretation of the law.
Dr Aukot told the Daily Nation that the August 2012 date for the next elections is a constitutional requirement that cannot be ignored by Parliament.
“If we didn’t want to comply fully with the new Constitution, what then are we trying to implement?” Dr Aukot asked the MPs.
The Law Society of Kenya also reacted, warning that any attempts to circumvent the August 2102 date may negatively affect future elections in the country.
“If you go by the argument of the unexpired term, then you run the danger of the constitutional crisis spilling over to the 2017 elections. The constitution is clear that elections must be held in August so let us follow it,” said LSK Secretary Apollo Mboya.
Christian and Muslim leaders also warned MPs against violating the Constitution.
“Kenyans will not allow MPs to subvert the new constitution so that they extend their term to 2013. Kenyans voted for the new constitution and promulgated it on August 27 so we must all respect it,” said Mumias Anglican bishop Beneah Salala.
The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims accused MPs of undermining the new constitution by plotting to prolong their stay in Parliament against the wishes of Kenyans.
“MPs should know that Kenya has a new constitution which they are currently implementing in Parliament. I do not know why the same MPs are quick to disregard the constitution whenever it comes to laws that affect them,” said Supkem vice chairman Abdullahi Kiptanui.
According to former Kikuyu MP Paul Muite, the new constitution set a fixed calendar for the life of the legislative term, and stripped the president of powers to dissolve it at any time and influence the electoral calendar.
“The president no longer has the powers to set the election date, those powers rest with the constitution and it is on the second Tuesday of August after every five years,” argued Mr Muite, who is also a former chairman of LSK.
“So if you hold elections on a date other than the second Tuesday of August 2012, you will create a vacuum and a constitutional crisis because section 59 of the old constitution which gave the president powers to dissolve parliament is no longer in force,” he warned.
MPs attending a retreat in Nairobi on Tuesday unanimously voted to rejected the constitutional clause that sets the second Tuesday of August of every fifth year as the date for elections.
They want their term extended at least until December 2012 arguing that an earlier poll will cut short their five year term.
Some of the MPs supporting this position hold powerful positions in committees implementing the new law.
They include Legal Affairs Committee chairman Ababu Namwamba, Constitution Oversight Committee chairman Abdikadir Mohammed and Justice minister Kilonzo.
Creating a crisis
Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo told representatives of political parties that the clause in the new constitution setting the second Tuesday of August every fifth year could only apply to the 2017 general election.
“The new constitution says explicitly that the National Assembly existing immediately before the effective date shall continue as the National Assembly for the purposes of this Constitution for its unexpired term. The five year term of the current Parliament will expire in December 2012,” said the minister.
“If you send us home early, you will create a constitutional crisis because we will not have passed the laws to create the structures to support the devolved system of government,” he said on Wednesday, restating the views expressed on Monday at the MPs seminar.
Former Siakago MP Justin Muturi dismissed Mr Kilonzo’s argument, saying a parliamentary term does not necessarily have to be five years.