By Joseph Kamotho
President Mwai Kibaki deserves a pat on the back for rekindling sanity and hygiene in the legislature that was about to becomeÂ likeÂ a gambling casinoÂ andÂ an arena for experimenting Â political manipulations and intrigues.
TheÂ presidentÂ vetoed the Â infamous and retrogressive Â fundamentalÂ legislative changes Â to the Political Parties and Elections Acts initiatedÂ by no lesser personÂ than aÂ man of God, Reverend Mutava Musyimi who dreamsÂ of succeeding Kibaki any timeÂ soon.Â Because of theÂ self servingÂ nature of theÂ amendments, theÂ head of StateÂ referred theÂ changes Â back to theÂ legislature for further deliberations.
Had the president signed intoÂ law the changes, switching of Â partiesÂ without theÂ constituentâs authority wouldÂ have been legal and presidential contestÂ wouldÂ haveÂ asÂ many spoilersÂ than seriousÂ contenders as is the case today.
A presidentialÂ Â candidate wouldÂ contestÂ other positionsÂ and be eligible forÂ aÂ nomination slot Â Â in parliamentÂ in theÂ event he failsÂ to capture the seat. A Â member ofÂ a party forÂ 45 daysÂ could have Â contest an election onÂ theÂ ticket of theÂ new party in contravention of the law thatÂ stipulatesÂ six months. Â
Under the newÂ and the previous constitution, a member who Â Â decides Â to change Â Â parties before the end of theÂ term,Â mustÂ seek fresh mandate.Â Many of the lawmakersÂ have takenÂ advantage of weaknessesÂ in theÂ enforcement of this legislationÂ and hopped fromÂ one party to another. DefectorsÂ are also expectedÂ to inform the Speaker of theÂ decision. In known history, very few of renegades haveÂ taken the bold step.
The proponents of the ill-fated changesÂ should beÂ reminded that partiesÂ nominateÂ candidatesÂ for parliamentaryÂ seats Â inÂ variousÂ constituencies in whichÂ they are expected Â Â to serve the electorate Â forÂ a period of five years not less andÂ Â performÂ legislativeÂ and oversight rolesÂ notÂ on a part time basis. Â NotwithstandingÂ thisÂ contractual obligation, defection isÂ Â fashionableÂ sinceÂ theÂ country was transformed into a multi party and that is what the likes of Musyimi want to encourage and condone in the new dawn.Â
Kenyans wondered aloudÂ whatÂ sort ofÂ a country Â the Reverend and other presidential hopefuls Â would lead Â Â withÂ aÂ splitÂ cabinet Â andÂ a legislature full Â Â ofÂ dualÂ Â party members or renegades. LittleÂ doesÂ Â the churchmanÂ know that passing laws in a legislature of unrulyÂ members wouldÂ be a problem.
ButÂ the electorate Â Â Â wereÂ in shockÂ to hearÂ theirÂ representativesÂ sitÂ and deliberateÂ onÂ amendingÂ the law Â Â toÂ provideÂ forÂ hopping from one partyÂ to anotherÂ without losingÂ a parliamentaryÂ seat. AsÂ a result, they Â are inÂ courtÂ to challengeÂ Â theÂ membership statusÂ ofÂ these defectors. Â PartiesÂ have been relegatedÂ toÂ election conveyor belts, gutters for party Â nomination rejects and dissidents.
Parties worth the name should disciplineÂ Â erratic membersÂ regardless of their positionÂ in society.Â But party leadersÂ are constrainedÂ by aÂ number of factors to act, oneÂ beingÂ theÂ influenceÂ some of the deserters wield amongst theirÂ tribes.
It isÂ emergingÂ that the Â motiveÂ behindÂ theÂ ill fated changes wasÂ to Â Â pre-empt legalÂ action against Â Â 100 colleaguesÂ that Â hadÂ changed parties,Â bought others in an auctionÂ and launched new ones as election conveyor belts.
State OfficersÂ are also Â bannedÂ from holdingÂ positionsÂ in politicalÂ partiesÂ but it did not comeÂ asÂ a surprise that Â Â theÂ MPs amended that Â Â lawÂ to exempt themselves Â from the rule thatÂ could have instilled disciplineÂ in political entities. TheÂ latter day amendmentsÂ areÂ Â dress rehearsalsÂ forÂ further mutilation of theÂ constitution toÂ Â suit circumstances.