Kenyan Election Standoff Enters Parliament

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Kenya's new government and opposition clashed in the parliament for the first time on Tuesday in a bad-tempered session reflecting deep bitterness over the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki.

Despite demands for urgent action to end a crisis in which more than 600 people have been killed, opposition and government legislators argued for an hour before eventually deciding the poll for a new speaker should be secret.

"We went through [national] elections with a secret ballot, and you stole the vote," said William Ruto, of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, which says it was robbed of victory in a rigged Dec. 27 presidential ballot.

Government legislators called for calm, saying the rowdy behavior was dishonoring those who have died.

"This is the 10th election of a speaker. It has always been by secret ballot," Justice Minister Martha Karua said.

"Some people with the title 'Honourable' in this House are planning murder and instituting murder."

Roads were closed and riot police ringed the building as Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga entered at the same time, without looking at each other. It was the first time they had been in the same room since the election.

In the 222-seat parliament, the Orange Democratic Movement commands the highest number, 99, after many of Kibaki's former ministers and supporters were swept away in the election. It hopes to elect its candidate Kenneth Marende as speaker.

Kibaki's Party of National Unity won 43 seats but it believes it can garner enough support from other parties to control the body and overcome ODM obstruction.

The parliament sitting began a new period of high tension after a lull in the crisis, with ODM planning to stage a wave of banned street demonstrations from Wednesday.

Former UN head Kofi Annan was due in Nairobi on Tuesday night to head a group of "Eminent Africans" trying to mediate between Kibaki and opposition leader Odinga.