MPs set to vote on bill to change General election date

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Legislatures will this week vote on a proposal to shift the General Election date from August to December as lobbying intensifies in a move that will in effect extend their term in office by four months.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2017 was proposed by Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa.

It seeks to have the date of the election of president, governors, MPs and MCAs moved from the second Tuesday of August to the third Monday in December every election year.

Majority of the 349 members of the National Assembly are in support of the bill and on Monday, Dr Wamalwa said that about 250 MPs have given a commitment to support it when it comes for voting.

The bill requires the support of at least two-thirds or 233 of the 349 MPs to sail through.

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“I have no doubt that this proposal will pass because I have the support of the members,” Dr Wamalwa said yesterday as he reached out to his colleagues for support.

The lawmakers were expected to vote Wednesday, but the Interior Ministry yesterday declared the day a national holiday.

Dr Wamalwa argues that a General Election should be held on a date more favourable to Kenya’s unique circumstances and traditions.

However, hurdles that include the possibility of a referendum would have to be overcome as a change in the election date automatically extends the president’s term, which can only be done through a referendum.

If approved by the MPs, it will be taken to the Senate. If the Senate’s position is in the affirmative, the Speakers of the two Houses will jointly take it to President Uhuru Kenyatta for assent.

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But before signing, the President will seek the counsel of the Attorney General, who will advise the President on whether the bill requires a referendum or not.

Usually, it is not the mandate of the two Speakers to decide whether a referendum is required.

But even as the challenges stand in the path of the proposal, Dr Wamalwa argues that the issue of an August election affecting national examinations must be put into consideration.

A similar proposal by former Ugenya MP David Ochieng’ flopped in 2014 and 2015 through a quorum hitch.

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