Kenya says yes to new constitution

Photo: Reuters

Kenya's new constitution received a resounding endorsement in a referendum, with the "yes" vote taking 67 per cent of the ballot, the electoral commission chief announced on Thursday evening. 


"This is a victory for Kenya... The people have spoken. The majority has spoken loud. The majority had their way but the minority has been heard," said Ahmed Issak Hassan.

"The constitution has therefore been approved by more than 50 per cent of the votes cast... I do declare that the proposed new constitution is hereby ratified."

The new law voted in a referendum Wednesday aims to improve democracy and consolidate basic rights and is the first overhaul of Kenya's independence constitution.

Some 12.4 million people were eligible to vote in the referendum, around 70 per cent of whom are thought to have turned out.

David Throup, a Kenya expert from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Arlington in the United States told RFI that the new constitution is likely to create one of two scenarios:

“The first is the emergence of an imperial presidency that will be perfectly capable of overriding the legislature.”

“The second is the emergence of a very powerful legislature which intervenes and indeed blocks the passage of legislation proposed by the executors and causing a political log jam and a powerless presidency unable to produce fundamental reforms.”

The Kenyan press was already anticipating that the proposed constitution would be passed in its Thursday morning editions.
"Kenya Says Yes," read the Daily Nation's headline, while The Standard proclaimed "Yes It Is".

The largely peaceful vote on Wednesday marked a new dawn for Kenya after the violence that followed the country's December 2007 election, said The Standard's editorial, while the Daily Nation urged both sides to maintain the peace while the remaining votes were counted and after the final results were released.

"The theme of this election is that of consensus building," senior advisor to President Kibaki, Peter Kagwanja told RFI. "That theme is going to run through the post-election period."

The Kenyan government wants to build "a democracy that is not a vindictive democracy," he said.

"Kenyans are fed up of the international image and reputation that they got after 2008, and to cleanse that, the constitution is emerging as an opportunity to forget that past and to construct a new future on the basis of a republican constitution," Kagwanja said.


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