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Delaying next year's elections might cause political instability

By Peter Kirui | August 4th 2021

Monicah Mbula,69, after casting her vote at Kalunga Primary School in Kathiani,  Machakos. March 18, 2021. [David Gichuru, Standard]

In recent days, calls by some politicians for elections to be postponed have intensified. Reasons for these calls include allowing adequate time for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to delimit boundaries as envisaged in law.

Some pro-BBI politicians also argue that this is to allow time to conduct a referendum, should the Court of Appeal overturn the High Court ruling that declared the BBI process null and void.

The calls come at a time that the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) observed that states are at liberty to either delay or conduct elections as scheduled depending on their assessment of the coronavirus pandemic and state of preparedness in mitigating a possible surge in infections during an electioneering period.

This, according to the Arusha-based ACHPR, also depended on whether states have a legal framework to facilitate delay of elections. In the case of Kenya, Article 102(2) of the Constitution provides that in the event of war, Parliament may, by resolution supported in each House by at least two-thirds of the members, extend the term of Parliament by not more than six months.

The threshold for extending the life of Parliament is therefore too high and difficult to attain, just like that of impeaching the president or the deputy. The question of whether the coronavirus pandemic can be equated as a state of war to warrant delay of elections is also controversial, let alone other flimsy reasons cited as justification for delay.

While the talk of extending the life of Parliament is welcome for debate, it is important for political actors pushing for the same to beware of the political risks such a move poses on fragile democracies like ours.

Polls in Africa are sensitive and often lead to some form of violence even when held as scheduled in the law. 

[Dr Peter Kirui is a lecturer at the University of Eldoret]

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