Kenyan politicians demand fresh elections

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was urged Thursday to dissolve parliament and call a general election by critics of a new government-backed constitution rejected earlier this week in a referendum. The call for fresh elections came a day after President Mwai Kibaki dismissed his entire Cabinet and assistant ministers. He took the unprecedented move two days after Kenyans stunned him by rejecting a draft constitution that he had supported.

Some 153 out of 210 constituencies and seven out of eight provinces voted against the government position. The outcome "urgently requires action to establish a government with legitimacy to govern," William Ruto, a leading critic of the charter, said while endorsing the Cabinet sacking.

"This parliament is now discredited and the president must dissolve it to pave the way for the people of Kenya to elect representatives with a new mandate," said Ruto, the secretary general of the main opposition Kenya African National Union.

Ruto is also a member of the Orange Democratic Movement, a grouping of key members of Kibaki's ruling coalition who campaigned against the charter and the main opposition party. Seven of Kibaki's 28-member Cabinet had opposed the draft charter and campaigned against it.

The rejected constitution was crafted by Attorney General Amos Wako, a Kibaki ally who combined a draft created by a National Constitutional Conference in March 2004 and one proposed by parliament in July. There was no immediate response from Kibaki and his aides.

Ruto supported Wednesday's sacking of the Cabinet, but said that was not enough to restore the credibility of Kenya's leading politicians who strongly backed the charter.

Kibaki must "comprehensively address the crisis we face of our national institutions being so grievously out of step with the people" by calling fresh elections, he said. Both supporters and critics of the president had cast Monday's referendum as a vote of confidence on Kibaki two years before the next presidential election. Supporters had argued the charter would have cut presidential powers and removed some power from the capital, Nairobi. But the draft's opponents said it diluted reforms planned last year during a constitutional conference, including many checks on existing presidential powers and establishment of a powerful prime ministerial post.

Kenya's current constitution, drawn up in the lead-up to Kenya's 1963 independence from Britain, has been revised several times to create a strong unitary state in which the president has sweeping powers, reports the AP. I.L.

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