Jubilee plot to amend maximum age for presidential candidates to block Raila in 2017

The Jubilee coalition is plotting to block former Prime Minister Raila Odinga from running for the presidency in the next election by proposing a change in the constitution that will bar anyone 70 years or older to be nominated.

This proposal is being made to counter two other proposals that have been suggested by governors— to increase the revenue allocation to county governments to 40 per cent  and another proposal by civil society and Cord-affiliated MPs to have the president elected by Parliament and not by popular vote as it is currently stipulated in the constitution.

All these changes to the constitution can only be made through a referendum and cannot simply be made by a two-thirds majority vote by MPs as it used to happen under the previous constitution.

Raila, who lost to President Uhuru Kenyatta in this year’s election, will be 72 years by the time the country holds its next general elections in 2017. Raila has been ambivalent as to whether or not he will be running for the presidency.

However, some of his supporters including leaders of Cord-affiliated parties have indicated they would support his candidacy and want him to contest.

“The plan is to have Jubilee introduce the question limiting the age of president. If there is going to be a referendum, this question must be included. We want to say that nobody over 70 years can run for the presidency,” a top Jubilee official who sought anonymity as he is not authorized by the party to speak on this matter said.

The Jubilee proposal is not the first time that attempts have been made to set a maximum limit for presidential candidates. A similar proposal was contained in the Bomas draft of 2004 which had set the maximum age limit at 70 years but this was scrapped during subsequent debate.

If the proposal had sailed through, then President Kibaki would have been barred for running for a second term in the 2007 elections. The Jubilee proposal could however face challenges as it might be considered to be in violation of the Bill of Rights which in Article 27(4) prohibits the State from discriminating anyone on the basis of various attributes including age.

“Even though that is true, we have age limits of up to the time civil servants can work. They all retire at the age of 60 years. Why not have a limit for the president too?” said another source at the Jubilee Alliance.

He argued that since the Presidential Elections Act sets a minimum age for one to be qualified to run for the presidency, there was also need to introduce a maximum age limit.

Kenyans may, for the first since the new constitution was promulgated, be faced with voting on more than one issue if the referendum is actually held. Each question has to get the support of at least  move, if actualised, would see Kenyans vote on more than one issue in a single referendum to amend the Constitution as proposals continue to grow.

There are two ways in which the referendum can be held — through popular vote where at least one million people are supposed to sign a petition demanding that Parliament call for a referendum on an issue.

This is the route which Raila and the governors are considering following to get their questions put on the referendum. They have already started collecting signatures from different parts of the country to petition the Parliament.

Jubilee, which has the majority in Parliament can also present a petition to have their proposed question decided by a referendum. In such a situation, they would petition the Parliament which can give its consent by a simple majority and not two-thids majority of the members.

The revelation of Jubilee’s proposal to counter the two others came a day after Uhuru called for an end to the demands for constitutional referendum as they were deflecting the government’s focus on delivering on its election promises.

“Respect the Constitution and stop threatening the government with constitutional amendments to serve partisan interests. Allow Kenyans to settle down. You have a duty to fulfill the development pledges made to Kenyans. We campaigned and the leaders were elected. Kenyans should now be left to work and leaders to serve. Where were you when the Constitution was being passed,” Uhuru said.

It also came a day after Raila said the Cord Coalition was giving the government a month to prepare for the referendum. Raila said the Cord alliance proposal was to ‘protect devolution’ while the one drivers by civil society groups were to change how the president is elected.

The civil society groups led by former Raila aide and chief campaigner in the last election, Eliud Owalo and the Okiya Omtata-led March4Movement is proposing that the country does away with the direct presidential election as stipulated in Article 138 of the Constitution.


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