In keeping with parliamentary practice and the Standing Orders, Parliament will have to pass the President’s memorandum through a simple majority or reject it by a two-thirds majority.
Prior to the President’s move, Raila and Kalonzo were in agreement as they rejected the amendment on MPs being holders of university degrees. The PM also criticised MPs for amending the Political Parties Act to allow party hopping without necessarily having the defecting MPs lose their parliamentary seats.
Raila revealed he had consulted with President Kibaki and agreed that the amendments infringed on the rights of Kenyans.
“I did consult with the President on this before and he knew I was going to make this statement. We are in general agreement that the amendments were unconstitutional and infringe on the rights of Kenyans,’’ Raila went on. “Currently, less than two per cent of Kenyans have a university education.
Kenya cannot now turn round on the people that the country has been unable to provide with educational qualifications and punish them for lacking those qualifications,” said the PM.
Coming out of a Wiper Democratic National Executive Council meeting Kalonzo called on Kibaki not to assent to “selfish and retrogressive amendments”.
Kalonzo said it was wrong to bend the law in order to favor a few people, adding that the Bill, if signed into law would reduce the standards of governance.
While at Kathiani, Kalonzo had said it was unfair to block non-degree holders while some of them had experience and training in various fields.
Kalonzo also put up a case for people with disabilities, arguing that the amendments must not be allowed as they would deny them the right to claim seats reserved for them in the Constitution.
Lands minister James Orengo said: “I welcome what President Kibaki has done. It is not about numbers in Parliament. It is about doing what is right and what is faithful to the Constitution.”
MPs had proposed the amendment to the Elections Act, arguing that Parliament needs quality leadership to be able to effectively practice its oversight role given that Cabinet secretaries would be individuals with higher qualifications and experts in their fields.
“These amendments serve to remind us that the new Constitution has many and powerful enemies on a mission to scuttle the rise of a new constitutional order,” cautioned Raila.
Transport minister Amos Kimunya and Finance Minister Njeru Githae, argued the Salaries and Remuneration Commission would peg salaries on qualifications and it was prudent for MPs to raise the academic bar in Parliament if they expected to earn more.
But Raila said this would lock out the youths, some of whom at 22 years of age are eligible to run but won’t have secured their degrees.
— Additional reporting by Ally Jamah