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Opinion Poll Suggests Kenya Elections Will Bring Major Upheaval


A new opinion poll suggests that most Kenyans believe their parliamentary representatives should be replaced, an indication that the country may see a major political shift in elections set for later this year. Nick Wadhams has the story from Nairobi.

The poll from the International Republican Institute was conducted with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development. It sampled three thousand people across Kenya last month and had a margin of error of less than two percent, and found that more than 63 percent believe the lawmaker from their region does not deserve to be re-elected.

The IRI Kenya program director, Ken Flottman, says the results show that Kenyans are generally happy with the direction the country is headed in economically but that there are too many people who are unemployed or work in the informal sector to feel totally satisfied.

"You can't look at the demographic numbers and feel too sanguine about the Kenyan economy or feel like it would make sense for the average voter to be too enthusiastic about where Kenya is right now even though they're positive about the direction the country is going in economically," he said.

Kenya's parliament has been the target of particular ire in recent months after a series of votes that were seen as an attempt by lawmakers to shield themselves from prosecution or line their own pockets after they leave office.

In one case, they gave themselves bonuses worth $22,000, and in another they tried to block corruption probes that date back to before 2003. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki later vetoed that measure.

The poll results could indicate that Kenya will witness a major political reorientation in the elections set for later this year. A coalition led by Mr. Kibaki has 132 of parliament's 224 seats. And other recent opinion polls have shown the president trailing the leading opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, in popularity.

According to the poll, Kenyans believe the most important issue that the government must address is creating jobs, with issues of security and living standards after that. Flottman said the poll also showed that Kenyans are concerned about security - a major issue after police began rounding up and sometimes killing suspected members of a mafia-like sect known as the Mungiki.

"What would you say about the situation with insecurity? 33.7 feel it's gotten better, 20.3 feel it's stayed the same, the plurality answer here is that it's gotten worse. Again, it's a mixed bag, I mean there's obviously not one consensus answer but it's obviously something that people are concerned about," added Flottman.

Among other findings, the poll shows that Kenyans have a great deal of political awareness. Eighty-six percent correctly identified their member of parliament, and more than 90 percent of respondents said they would vote in the elections set for December.

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