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Kenya Politician Challenges Moi on Election Delay - 2002-06-26


A leading opposition politician in Kenya has accused the government of President Daniel arap Moi of trying to provoke a crisis by delaying elections, due at the end of the year. But the politician believes he has enough votes to prevent the delay.

Opposition leader Mwai Kibaki told reporters Wednesday that he has collected 83 signatures from parliament members who said they will vote against the government proposal to extend the life of parliament until May 2003.

If none of the lawmakers change their minds, the opposition would have nine more votes than necessary to defeat the government's motion.

Under Kenya's constitution, President Daniel arap Moi is required to step down when his five-year term expires in early January. But the ruling party wants the president to be given an extra six months in power.

The government said this extra time is needed to finish drawing up a new constitution.

Mr. Kibaki said this is not true and accuses the government of trying to artificially create panic in the country. "This nation is at a critical moment and we don't want somebody to engineer a crisis when there is no crisis. No crisis whatsoever," Mr. Kibaki said.

Though Mr. Kibaki is confident he has enough votes to defeat any attempt to extend the parliament, his confidence is not shared by everyone, especially in light of recent government maneuvers.

Nairobi newspapers revealed on Tuesday that the government is proposing a substantial increase in parliamentarians' salaries. Under the proposal the basic salary of legislators will be raised 900 per cent and their housing allowances will double.

Political commentator John Githongo said that, since many of the legislators might not be re-elected, the temptation of an extra six months' salary could prove too much for some legislators to resist.

"One has to keep in mind that 40-60 percent of all Kenyan MPs lose their seats at every election. The political survival of at least half of them after the next election is doubtful. You have a whole group of them who feel, well, this is good money. You know, that's an extra six months of a huge salary," Mr. Githongo said.

Kenyan MPs currently earn around $6,000 a month in a country where half the population live on less than a dollar a day.

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