Change of polls date will hand Uhuru extra year

This Saturday, allow me to speculate because there is something I do not understand. I am wondering how Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda, the most ambitious legacy project since Independence, will be completed in roughly 1,000 days. Between now and the next election, Uhuru has less than 1,500 days left. If you take away the first eight months of the election year, from January to August 2022, he is left with 1,250 days. And that is being generous since all aspects of Kenyan life are generally suspended when we ‘electioneer’. Those first eight months of 2022 will be a non-stop political extravaganza. By now, the Big Four implementation should be happening like clockwork. Every hour and minute should be counted and accounted for. But that is what the President is running out of: Time.

This is where we begin to speculate. If God alone can ‘manufacture’ or ‘create’ time, Presidents can only then ‘expand’ time. Uhuru Kenyatta can add some much-needed months to his term.

Interestingly, there is a Constitutional Amendment Bill that is before Parliament to change the election date from August to December 2022. The premise of this proposal is that we as Kenyans have accepted the disruptive nature of our elections.

As sure as the grass is green, the election period will be tense, dramatic and disruptive. And because we know this, we want to relegate that disruption to the end of the year. The same way that, if given a choice, one would prefer to engage in a bad argument or fight towards the end of the day, when you have already accomplished some things, rather than at the beginning of the day, which will ruin your chances of being productive. So, in short, the Bill is proposing to save the rest of 2022 from becoming a write-off.

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It is very likely that MPs will pass the Bill. For one, they stand to be beneficiaries of an extended term, at least by four months. The amendment will also serve them well since December is considered a convenient period for people to travel up-country, translating to more voting constituents for the MPs.

Four months

On the surface, it looks like an amendment to the Constitution will add four months to President Uhuru’s term, but it will be much more than that. In fact, if we will not have a new president by August 2022, we may have one a year later, in August 2023. Here is why.

Should the Constitutional Amendment Bill become law, and we hold the elections on the third Monday of December, the results will be announced at most seven days after, which takes us to Christmas Eve of 2022.

As sure as the Pope is Catholic, there will be a presidential petition after the election results are announced. Our recent electoral history has shown that as litigious Kenyans, we cannot forgo the constitutional provision to refute the election results. A petition challenging the election of the president-elect is to be filed within seven days of the declaration of the results of the elections, this takes us to December 31.

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The Supreme Court thereafter has two weeks to hear and determine the petition, which brings us to the mid-January 2023. Should the court determine, like it did in 2017 that the election was invalid, a fresh election is to be held in 60 days, taking us to around Mid-March 2023. Should contestations arise thereafter, we continue with the electoral loop, ad infinitum. The Constitution after all, provides for it.

Then there is the other spanner in the works - the IEBC. Since 2008, we have never gone to an election with the same electoral management body. IEBC commissioners are currently serving a six-year non-renewable term that expires in January 2022. Having commenced their term in January 2017, it will expire just a few days after the proposed December election. If the completion of the Big Four legacy project is a ‘must do’ for the President, he may somehow ‘gift’ himself an additional year in office to implement it. They say that there are many ways to skin a cat, and this electoral timeline speculation is just one way to do it.

- The writer is a PhD candidate in Political Economy at SMC University. [email protected]

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