|Kenya's new constitution was promulgated in 2010 which will be the basis on the governance of the country [Reuters]
Kenya's next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in March 2013, unless a collapse of the ruling coalition forces an earlier poll, the country's electoral commission has said.
The east African country's next election, set on Saturday for March 4, will come under intense scrutiny because it will be the first under a new constitution, and the first since a contested 2007 poll that gave rise to violence in which more than 1,220 people were killed.
"We are going by a constitutional court ruling... which requires us to hold elections 60 days from when the parliament term ends," said Ahmed Issack Hassan, chairman of Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
A high court ruled in January that elections should be held within 60 days of the expiry of the current parliament's mandate in mid-January 2013.
However, the court also said the elections could be brought forward if there was a written agreement between Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Railia Odinga, the prime minister, to dissolve the coalition government they both head.
Kibaki, who is barred by law from seeking a third term, and Odinga, who leads in opinion polls in the race to replace him, have been at odds over the election date, putting their already fragile coalition under further strain.
The IEBC said it had failed to receive a decision on that matter after meeting with both leaders, and so had gone ahead with the step to set the date.
"It has become apparent to us that they don't intend to dissolve the coalition.... There is a disagreement amongst them on when polls should be held," said Hassan. "That is why we took it upon ourselves to fix the date."
Kenya plunged into violence after the December 27, 2007, general elections in which Odinga, then the opposition chief, accused Kibaki as the incumbent president of having rigged his re-election.
What began as political riots soon turned into ethnic killings targeting members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe in the worst violence since Kenya gained independence in 1963.