The International Criminal Court will decide on January 23 whether six high-profile Kenyans, including presidential contenders Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, should be tried for crimes against humanity, it said on Friday.

The decision by the Hague-based court - whose proceedings have been closely followed in Kenya - could have far-reaching political consequences for the biggest economy in east Africa.

The six politicians and officials are suspected of orchestrating the violence that followed a disputed election in December 2007, in which at least 1,200 people died and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.

If either finance minister Kenyatta or former cabinet minister Ruto, or both men, have to go on trial at the international war crimes court, it could hit their chances of running for president in the next election.

However, if Kenyans feel that the court's decision is unfair or fails to hold those responsible for violence accountable, it could lead to angry protests or fresh violence.

The ICC chief prosecutor had applied to bring two separate cases before the court, reflecting the ethnic fault lines behind Kenya's post-election violence.

Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura, who is civil service head and cabinet secretary, and Mohammed Hussein Ali, the former police commissioner, are accused of crimes against humanity, including murder, forcible transfer, rape and persecution.

Ruto, who is the former higher education minister, Henry Kosgey, the former industrialisation minister, and Joshua arap Sang, the head of operations at Radio KASS FM, are accused of crimes against humanity, including murder, forcible transfer and persecution.

Kenya's High Court has ruled that the presidential election should be held in March 2013, not this August as stipulated in the constitution, nor in December as proposed by the government.

The court also ruled, however, that if the coalition government is dissolved there would be an election within 60 days and the executive has since come under pressure to arrange for a vote this year.

(Reporting by Sara Webb; Editing by Maria Golovnina)