The High Court of Kenya delayed Thursday the dissolution of the nation’s parliament, pending a full hearing of the case scheduled for October 7th. The decision reverses an order given by Chief Justice David Maraga advising President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the parliament because neither of the legislative houses had one-third of their seats occupied by women in violation of a 2010 constitutional provision.
Chief Justice Maraga had requested that President Kenyatta dissolve the parliament based on its failure to meet the country’s “two-thirds gender rule.” This rule stems from Article 27(8) of the Constitution of Kenya, which requires the State to “take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.” The rule is also supported by Article 27(3), which states that “women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.” Currently, women hold 22% of seats in the lower house of parliament and 31% of seats in the upper house.
Kenyan law dictates that once a parliament has dissolved, the country must hold elections within 90 days. As a result of the far-reaching ramifications of such a decision, and in response to a petition challenging Maraga’s advisory, the High Court has decided to suspend any attempts to dissolve the parliament pending a full hearing.
“I have carefully considered the petition and find that it raises substantial questions of law,” wrote High Court Justice Weldon Korir in his judgment, ordering the hearing. A panel of judges will now be appointed to hear the petition and is expected to convene their proceedings on October 7th.