A new plot to extend President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tenure at State House has been mooted and could see the next general election pushed to August 2023.
The details emerged three weeks after a section of MPs revealed they were preparing to petition the High Court to postpone the election to give the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission adequate time to conduct boundary delimitation.
In a letter to the IEBC boss Wafula Chebukati and Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, former Jubilee nominated Senator Paul Njoroge says having the election on August 9, 2022, will unconstitutionally reduce Uhuru’s five-year term by four months.
Citing Article 142 of the Constitution, Njoroge argues that the five-year presidential term begins on the day he was sworn in.
Uhuru was sworn in on November 28, 2017, following protracted electioneering that saw his August 2017 victory nullified and a fresh presidential ballot held.
“The current office holder of the Office of the President of the Republic of Kenya was sworn in on November 28, 2017. It, therefore, goes without saying that the term of the office of the President shall expire on November 27, 2022,” Njoroge says.
“Thus, if the election is to be conducted on August 9, 2022, as you have indicated, it means the current President shall have been denied over four months of his term, which is unconstitutional.”
Njoroge then cites Article 136 of the Constitution that provides for the second Tuesday in August every fifth year. He argues that after Uhuru’s term ends on November 27, 2022, the second Tuesday in August can only be in 2023.
“I believe that under the proper interpretation of the law, the correct date for the next election shall be in August 2023 and not August 9, 2022,” Njoroge states in the August 2 letter seen by the Star.
The former lawmaker wants the AG to interpret the law with regard to Article 136 and advise voters on when they will elect their fifth president.
He is also demanding that IEBC withdraw the August 9, 2022 notice and advise Kenyans accordingly.
Njoroge has warned that failure by the AG and the IEBC to respond appropriately will automatically trigger a court action to challenge the electoral timelines as announced by Chebukati and his team.
“With the above, I have serious reservations about the announcement of the election without giving due consideration to the relevant provisions of the Constitution that I have enumerated,” he says.
“I am putting you with a notice that unless you withdraw from misinforming the public that the election date is August 9, 2022, within the next 30 days from the date herein, I shall be constrained to move to court to seek the court’s intervention and interpretation of the above constitutional provisions with regard to the upcoming general election.”
Should the election be postponed, Uhuru will enjoy more time as the head of state and government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces. This could give him more time to reorganise his succession.
The Building Bridges Initiative is hanging by a thread and a determination on the fate of the bill shall be made by the Court of Appeal on August 20.
The President’s relationship with Deputy President William Ruto has irretrievably broken down, with the two engaging in proxy wars even as succession politics takes shape.
The push to extend the election date is already causing a serious political storm, with various leaders, especially Ruto allies, warning against such a move.
Ruto himself has described proponents of the election postponement as speaking the “language of impunity”.
Speaking to the Star, DP Ruto’s ally Silvanus Osoro termed the push unfortunate, saying there is no justification for adjustment of the election calendar.
“The law must be followed to the letter. There is no war in this country that would warrant a term extension. We must hold the election in August 2022,” the South Mugirango MP said.
Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa concurred that the country must hold the next general election next year. The Ford Kenya lawmaker warned that any attempt to postpone it will not be tolerated.
“If you read the Constitution, we have a five-year term, and we shall not allow anyone to postpone the 2022 election,” Wamalwa said.
Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja said Kenya is ripe for election next year and elected leaders must face the electorate to get their approval for another term in office.
“I was given a contract that is ending on August 9. I will have to go back to the people who will show me the direction to take,” he said.
Former National Assembly Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali—another Ruto supporter—said the clamour to have the election date changed is spearheaded by people scared of facing elections.
He claimed some people are keen on using the Covid-19 pandemic to justify their schemes to avoid the ballot.
“It is a five-year term, elections were held in August 2017. How does it go now to August 2023? ” the Mumias East MP said.
“We are talking of election date to another; the five years is not calculated from the swearing-in dates.”
This is not the first time politicians are pushing for an extension of the election date.
Last month, a section of MPs, led by Ndaragua MP Jeremiah Kioni, said they were working on a plan to petition the High Court to postpone the election to give the IEBC adequate time to conduct boundary delimitation.
The MPs argued their move was meant to avert a constitutional crisis by going into an election with electoral units that are illegal—referring to the 27 constituencies that did not meet the population threshold but were protected in the previous polls.
Kioni says many more constituencies do not meet the population threshold provided for in the Constitution.
The current population quota per constituency is about 163,000 voters. However, statistics from the 2019 National Population Census show many constituencies across the country are way below the newly set population threshold.
In an interview with the Star, Kioni said they would ask the courts to compel the IEBC to review constituency boundaries before the August 9, 2022, vote to avert what he called a looming constitutional crisis.
The legislator said the 26 constituencies that were protected in 2012 will have to be scrapped if a review is not conducted.
“This is a serious enough issue to occasion a discussion on whether we should have the election on the proposed date of August 9, 2022, or thereafter,” Kioni said.
“Why go into an election with the constituencies as they are? To me, it is a thing that falls into the definition of an emergency in the country.”
By The Star