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Kenyans Vote 'Yes' on New Constitution


Partial results from Kenya's referendum show that voters overwhelmingly cast ballots for the country's proposed new constitution.

Opponents of the draft conceded defeat Thursday, but called for immediate consultations on possible amendments.

With ballots still being counted, results so far show 70 percent of voters backed the new constitution - which is aimed at easing tribal and political tensions that have plagued the country for years.

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, director of the 'yes' campaign called it a victory for all Kenyans. He said the country has been reborn.

The draft was backed by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The current system gives great power to the executive branch - fueling charges that presidents direct government jobs and money mainly to their own tribe.

The new constitution would curb the president's authority, give greater powers to local governments, and limit the Cabinet to 22 members.

It would also eliminate the post of prime minister. That post was created as part of a Kibaki-Odinga power-sharing deal. A dispute over which man won Kenya's 2007 presidential vote sparked weeks of violence that killed 1,300 people.

Supporters of the draft say it would reduce corruption, address long-standing injustices, and prevent future violence. The United States has indicated its support, saying it would strengthen democracy in Kenya.

The opposition camp, led by churches, criticizes the draft's language on abortion and Islamic courts.

Under the new constitution, abortions would be legal if the mother's health is at risk. Islamic courts would also be recognized as a way to resolve civil matters between Muslims, though the courts would remain subordinate to the government legal system.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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