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Kenyan Opposition Battles Ruling Party's Proposal


Opposition politicians in Kenya are working to block a ruling party proposal to delay general elections that are planned later this year.

Kenyans are supposed to go to the polls in December to elect their first new president in 24 years. Incumbent President Daniel arap Moi is constitutionally bound to step down.

But the ruling Kanu party has proposed a delay in the voting until May 2003. It says it wants to extend parliament by six months to give Kenya's Constitutional Review Commission time to come up with a new constitution.

An opposition member of parliament, Mwangi Kiunjuri, says he is organizing a petition to defeat the government's proposal. The ruling party plan would need a two-thirds majority to pass. And Mr. Kiunjuri says he believes he can win the votes to block the proposal. "We are calling for members of parliament who are opposed to the extension of the house to sign a document, which is opposed to it [the delay]," he said. "I am spearheading this move. And by Friday I had 70. Today, one of our members of parliament has signed. Now we are 71. And we only require 74 votes. I am convinced, by tomorrow evening, I'll garner over 80 votes, which means, even if Kanu [the ruling party] brings this bill before the floor of the house, it will be defeated."

Mr. Kiunjuri said he believes the real reason the government wants to delay the poll is because President Moi has not yet chosen who he wants to succeed him. "Moi must be worried now," he said. "Moi knows very well how dangerous it is to give up power with the old constitution. He knows how sharp that sword is. And he cannot trust anybody with that constitution and the power he wielded, even if its for his own son. And at the same time he's not organized his house. Between now and December, he cannot be able to bring up a strong candidate and sell that candidate to all Kenyans. None of them can be brought in and accepted by the others within Kanu, meaning they will definitely lose to the opposition."

Six members of the ruling party have been mentioned as possible successors to President Moi. But some observers say the president will have trouble maintaining their loyalty and that of their tribes, once just one of them has been selected as Kanu's presidential candidate.

Critics say they believe that President Moi wants a new constitution, with additional posts like that of prime minister, because it would give him more jobs to hand out, thus securing the votes of all of Kenya's key ethnic groups.

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