Kenya Referendum - Voting on the Constitution

On 21 November 2005, the Kenyan people voted on a new constitution in a national Kenya referendum. About 57 percent voted no and 43 yes, at a turnout of 52 percent. More than 11 million Kenyans were eligible to vote. Long lines had formed outside many voting boots.

Changing the Constitution

One of the reasons for the ‘no’ vote was probably the following. A first draft constitution had been written in a remarkable democratic process by representatives from all over the country. It had a lot of support from NGO’s. Then President Kibaki rewrote the draft and gave the executive (= himself) more powers.

Free And Fair

The referendum was generally seen as free and fair. Western election watchers said that most media covered both sides in a balanced manner, but that the state controlled Kenya Broadcasting Corporation was biased in favour of the yes-side.

However, in the period running up to the referendum, 9 people were killed and there were violent confrontations between yes- and no-supporters.

Bananas Versus Oranges

Although 85 percent of Kenyans are literate, the yes and no sides were visualized on the voting cards by bananas (yes) and oranges (no). The oranges were connected to the Orange Democratic Movement, the opposition which included the former ruling party KANU of strong man Daniel Arap Moi.

The day after, Kenyan president Kibaki (who campaigned for a ‘yes’) admitted the defeat and said he would respect the outcome. For the time being, Kenya will keep it’s old constitution which dates from 1963, the year of Kenya’s independence from Britain.

Split Government

Large parts of society, including Kibaki’s party the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), were split over the Kenya referendum. Many cabinet members were prominent on the ‘no’ side. It was expected that they would be fired in case of a ‘yes’ vote, but now Kibaki let them hold their offices.

Introduction to Kenya Government

History of Kenya

Results of the 2007 Kenya Elections

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