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Kenyans Reject Draft Constitution

Kenyan voters have soundly rejected a proposed new constitution in a landmark referendum. Figures released by the National Electoral Commission shows that 58% of voters cast "no" ballots, while 42% supported the draft. The board says the "no" camp holds an insurmountable lead of nearly a million votes. The vote deals a major blow to president Mwai Kibaki, who supported the draft.

Joe Hamisi is a member of parliament and belongs to the Liberal Democratic Party. He told Voice of America reporter Ashenafi Abedje that over the past two months, the focus of the referendum campaign had shifted from the core constitutional issues to that of auditing the Kibaki government’s performance since coming to power. What happens in the remaining two years of Mr. Kibaki’s administration, he says, depends on how well Mr. Kibaki can recover from his defeat. Mr. Hamisi says among other things, the president needs to call for reconciliation among Kenyans who were on opposite sides of the constitutional issue.

The Kenyan parliamentarian says with the referendum now over, opponents of the draft document – known as the Orange Team – strongly favor reverting to what he calls the Bomas Draft, or the first draft. He says the draft is mostly ready with a few issues yet to be ironed out. These include the powers of the executive, the devolution of power, gender equality, land acquisition and distribution. Mr. Hamisi says after the key players sort out these issues, they will be passed on to the delegates for a final stamp of approval.