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Kenyan Lawmakers Wrangle Over Coalition Dispute

In the latest indications of the discord within Kenya's coalition government, the cabinet canceled its weekly meeting for the third week in a row, and lawmakers in parliament continued to bicker over the relative powers of the two parties in the coalition.

Kenya's parliament reopened Tuesday with President Mwai Kibaki calling for the country's two main parties to put an end to the growing divisions plaguing the one-year old government.

But the disputes have shown no sign of diminishing. President Kibaki's Party of National Unity and Prime Minister Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement continue to disagree over what powers they should have under the coalition arrangement. For the third straight time, the weekly cabinet meeting was postponed.

Parliament remained deadlocked over a dispute about who should serve as the head of the House Business Committee, which sets the agenda for what is discussed in parliament. President Kibaki has nominated Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka for the job, but the Orange Democratic Movement says the position should go to Odinga.

The Orange Democratic Movement, which has a majority in parliament, claims the President's party has not conceded enough powers, and that it is not given enough say in decisions like the appointment of civil servants.

In parliament, the Orange Democratic Movement Secretary General Anyang Nyong'o complained the government has not followed the power-sharing agreement that was signed last year, following post-election turmoil, which established the new government.

"One of the problems that has bedeviled us in this country is that from time to time we make agreements and then we go against them," Nyong'o said. "And then tension builds into the country and finally there is social conflict. Where there is social conflict, we shall not have food, we shall not have development, we shall not have peace."

Public confidence in the government remains low. According to a recent survey by the Steadman Group, Kenya's most prominent pollster, only a third of the population now supports the power-sharing agreement.

Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, a key ally of the president, acknowledged the public sentiment.

"We have indeed become unpopular," Saitoti said. "I have never known another parliament for the many years I have been here, which has been so much disparaged by the members of public as ourselves here. "

Saitoti is mentioned as a potential future presidential candidate. Another possible candidate, Martha Karua, formerly a close ally of President Kabiki, recently resigned as Justice Minister, an action that appears to have given her a boost in public approval.

The coalition-government was formed more than a year ago, but has made little progress on its stated priorities, including an overhaul of the constitution and setting up a tribunal to try those accused of organizing post-election violence.

Economic news is unlikely to boost sympathy for the government. The World Bank recently said economic growth this year would not be significantly greater than last year's 2.3 percent. In 2007, Kenya had achieved GDP growth of seven percent.