Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kenyan Opposition Wins Battle for Parliament Speaker (Update2)

Kenyan Opposition Wins Battle for Parliament Speaker (Update2)
By Eric Ombok and Karl Maier

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga scored a victory over President Mwai Kibaki today when his candidate was elected the speaker of parliament in the first legislative session since disputed elections last month.

Kenneth Marende, the nominee of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, defeated Francis ole Kaparo, who has held the position since 1993 and had the backing of Kibaki's Party of National Unity, by four votes in a third round of voting. The opposition candidate for deputy speaker, Farah Maalim, also won.

The 222-seat parliament was surrounded by police as the voting took place. The Dec. 27 general elections sparked a wave of violence that has killed at least 612 people and exposed tensions among the more than 40 ethnic groups in the east African nation. Odinga says Kibaki rigged the presidential vote.

``This will no doubt go down in the annals of history of this house as the most hotly contested election of speaker,'' Marende said in his victory speech. ``As your speaker I want to humbly submit myself to the collective will of the members.''

The ODM has called for three days of protest rallies starting tomorrow. The U.S., the European Union and the East African Community have expressed concern over possible irregularities in the polls.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is planning to attempt to mediate the crisis, delayed his visit to Nairobi today for a few days after he came down with the flu in Geneva, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said in New York.

Marende received 105 votes to 101 for Kaparo, parliamentary clerk Samuel Ndindiri announced in a nationally televised broadcast.

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