Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kenyan Opposition Wins Parliament Speaker Vote

By VOA News
15 January 2008

Kenya's politicians gather for the tenth parliament opening, 15 Jan 2008Kenya's parliament has elected an opposition lawmaker as speaker, in a close vote reflecting deep and bitter political divisions.

Opposition candidate Kenneth Marende received 105 votes, compared to 101 for the candidate backed by President Mwai Kibaki.

Earlier Tuesday, lawmakers argued over whether the speaker vote should be conducted by open or secret ballot. Members of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement demanded a public vote, saying secret ballots allowed the government to steal last month's presidential election.

The arguing lasted for about an hour before lawmakers agreed the vote should be secret.

Security was heavy for Tuesday's session, the first time lawmakers have met since the disputed election. Police are trying to prevent a renewal of post-election violence that has killed more than 600 people.

Elsewhere in Nairobi Tuesday, gangs burned a school and an orphanage. To the northwest, witnesses say two people were killed when groups of young men attacked a village.

Kenya is bracing for three days of nationwide opposition protests set to begin Wednesday in defiance of a government ban on political rallies.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was due to take over international mediation efforts Tuesday. However, Annan's office says the former secretary-general is sick with the flu and has postponed the mission for a few days.

Kenya's electoral commission declared Mr. Kibaki the winner of the December 27 election after a vote counting process that international observers say was seriously flawed.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga insists he won the vote, and the ODM has called on the president to resign or share power.

Tuesday's parliament session marked the first time Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga have been in the same room since the election dispute began.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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