Moi sets stage for Christmas poll in Kenya

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The Kenyan President, Daniel arap Moi, dissolved parliament yesterday, setting the stage for elections around Christmas when he will seek a final five-year term after two decades in power. A brief statement from the presidency in Nairobi ended weeks of guessing games.

President Moi, 73 and in power since 1978, is seen as the favourite against an array of candidates from the divided opposition. But predictions are risky because there is no reliable opinion research into the intentions of Kenya's 11 million registered voters. Hardline opposition figures, led by veteran Kenneth Matiba, are advocating a boycott and disruption of the polls.

The long uncertainty about polling day has hit business and industry with potential foreign investors waiting for the outcome. Businesses, like ordinary Kenyans, also fear the violence associated with politics in Kenya. More than a dozen civilians and policemen were killed between May and October during pro-reform protests.

Recent reforms are aimed at creating a more level playing field and include a wholesale review of the constitution after the elections. But opposition leaders and pro-democracy campaigners fear the new rules will not be fairly observed by the provincial administration, an almost omnipotent corps which reports directly to the presidency. The hardline opposition rejected the reforms as cosmetic and is demanding a long postponement of the polls while a national unity government takes charge.

-- Reuters, Nairobi