Kenyans vote to reject proposed new constitution

Kenyans have voted to reject a proposed new constitution, dealing an embarrassing blow to President Mwai Kibaki and threatening to break up his coalition Government.

About 57 per cent of the six million voters marked their crosses next to an orange, the symbol of the “no” vote, in Monday’s referendum. President Kibaki had strongly backed the new constitution. But seven members of his cabinet supported the successful “no” campaign, which played on fears that the draft charter left the President with too many unchecked powers.

When the result became clear yesterday, small crowds of jubilant voters marched through the capital Nairobi chanting “No! No! No!” “Results have shown clearly that many people rejected the proposed constitution,” said Mr Kibaki in a televised speech. “My Government will respect the verdict of the people.” Instead of uniting Kenyans, a new constitution was one of the main campaign pledges when the NARC coalition swept to victory three years ago, the referendum turned into a political battle in which eight people died during campaign rallies. Fears that Monday’s poll could be marred by more violence proved unfounded, and the Electoral Commission of Kenya said the poll was free and fair. “The people have triumphed,” said Uhuru Kenyatta, the leader of the opposition Kanu party. “This triumph shows that the future of the country lies not in an imperial presidency," reports the AP. I.L.

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