Kenya’s Court of Appeal’s decision to reject Uhuru Kenyatta’s proposal to bring sweeping changes to the constitution is expected to have significant implications on the 2022 general elections in the East African nation.
Last week, a seven-judge upheld the high court’s May judgment and called President Kenyatta‘s plan to overhaul the structure of the government “unconstitutional”. The court ruled that the president acted illegally and has no authority to change the constitution.
“The Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020 is unconstitutional and a usurpation of the people’s exercise of sovereign power,” Judge Daniel Musinga had said.
It is important to note that demands for reforming the electoral and constitutional system have been a consistent step during every election taking place in Kenya since multiparty politics was reintroduced three decades ago. Evidently, the decision made by the Court of Appeals will bring unprecedented twists and turns to the upcoming election campaign in the country.
Kenyatta, Odinga back plan
Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga have been jointly endorsing the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which aims to bring an end to ethnic violence and overturn the winner-take-all electoral system in Kenya. Some of the reforms proposed by the BBI include restructuring the executive and increasing the number of parliamentarians from 290 to 360 to represent more ethnic groups in the administration.
While Kenyatta has approached the Supreme Court, experts have pointed out that the delay in decision-making over the constitutional changes will drastically affect Kenyatta’s planned transformation of the governance system.
Notably, the BBI plan has been strongly opposed by Kenyatta’s Deputy President William Ruto, which prompted strained ties between the two leaders. Last week, Kenyatta also demanded his deputy to submit his resignation if he is “not happy” with his governance. Amid frosty relations with Ruto, Kenyatta is poised to support Odinga for the presidency in next year’s elections.
Elections in Kenya
Noting that elections in Kenya have been marred by ethnic violence for several years now, the 2022 polls are also expected to unravel an unexpected turn of events. Traditionally, the candidate with the strongest support from three of the five largest ethnic groups in Kenya – Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luo, Luhya, and the Kamba – secures the presidency. However, as the president is attempting constitutional reforms, the ballot box could change the face of the election process.
Furthermore, experts have indicated that youth vote will also play a decisive role in choosing the presidency in next year’s elections.