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Why many Kenyans want election date changed

By Michael Chepkwony | Published Wed, May 23rd 2018 at 17:18, Updated May 23rd 2018 at 17:27 GMT +3
A voter casts his vote in the August 2017 elections. The National Assembly Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs formed sub-committees to conduct hearings on the proposal to change election dates in Nairobi, Kisumu and Nakuru. [File, Standard]

Five groups have supported the push to change the elections date from August to December citing disruption to schools and inconvenience to voters traveling upcountry mid year.

FIDA-kenya, Kenya Girl Guides Association, Uraia Trust, Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) and Women Empowerment League (WEL) backed the Bill to amend the constitution to change the poll date during a public hearing convened by the Justice and Legal Affairs committee.

The Bill sponsored by Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa seeks to move the election date to the third Monday of December every fifth year from the current every second Tuesday of August. 

“The amendment is to ensure that the date of elections reflects the unique circumstances and traditions of Kenya. The current date for the general elections unduly disrupts the education calendar and most importantly the conduction of national examinations in case of either a fresh election or a ‘run-off’ or invalidation of a presidential election,” reads the bills in parts.

While collecting public opinions on Wednesday, the National Assembly Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs heard that August date was likely to interfere with learning in schools beside the inconvenience it causes on voters traveling home to cast their votes.

In its submission, FIDA-kenya argued in support of Wamalwa’s sentiments that December was convenient to the schools’ programs as well as voters traveling upcountry.

”We are of the opinion that December will have no additional expense,” said FIDA’s Joyce Machiwa in her memorandum.

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Also, Kenya Girl Guides Association supported the change of election date saying as an advocacy group, it was disturbed by the fact that the fixing of election date to August was insensitive to the learning needs of children.

Uraia Trust argued, “when we interrupt teachers, making them partisans by engaging them in elections as election officials, we disrupt the focus on education during the time.”

Other groups in support of the bill included Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) and Women Empowerment League (WEL).

Among those who opposed the bill were World March of Women that said the question should be how to make it possible for Kenyans to vote wherever they are at the time of election.

Also, Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD-Kenya) in their submission warned that the push for a change of date was likely to introduce other complications especially legal.

“We need to get used to and stop complaining,” said Jane Kotut, CMD-Kenya gender chairperson.

Political Parties Liason Committee also wanted the status quo maintained.  Another organisation, ‘We are 52 per cent,' chose to be neutral and said it was not in a position to comment on the matter beside gender representation.

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