Deputy President William Ruto told Jubilee MPs the coalition’s leadership was determined to block party hopping ahead of today’s vote.
Reading the riot act, Ruto dared MPs keen on last-minute defections to leave the ruling coalition early rather than frustrate the ideals of Jubilee Party, which will be launched next week.
The MPs’ talks at the DP’s Karen residence yesterday morning came before debate opened on the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, which has a provision barring party hopping that will be voted on today.
“We are not opposed to party hopping, but what we want is a situation where we can decide to be members of certain political parties based on their ideologies before the parties’ nominations are held,” said Ruto.
The DP said lawmakers should join parties they feel comfortable with because that was their democratic right. He is said to have warned MPs who will not comply that the party may resolve to issue direct nomination in their areas.
Runyenyes MP Cecily Mbarire, who is reported to have made a case for party hopping, is said to have changed tune after listening to the DP.
“This is now clear to us. I had fully supported the amendment on the report by the Joint Select Committee on party hopping, but the Deputy President has made it clear on this matter today. We will support the report the way it is without proposing any changes,” said Mbarire.
And the meeting seems to have intimidated the MPs going by the sentiments by some after the meeting.
“No party hopping. We have been ordered to pass the two Bills in their current form without amendments. Going by the DP’s body language, this thing is a live wire. You joke, you get fried,” stated an MP from Central after the closed door meeting.
Another from Rift Valley added: “Going by the current mood, the President and DP are not taking this matter lightly. When you are asked to play ball or ship out, where does it leave you? Politics is a profession and we must have some standards set.”
But the MPs also sought assurance that Jubilee Party will conduct credible nominations. Mr Ruto assured the MPs that the party management will be professional.
“Unlike in the past, where nominations were done a few days to the elections, resulting in chaotic nominations, this time round we will have nominations done three months before the elections,” said Ruto.
He said the move is to allow time for a tribunal to be formed to oversee complaints related to the nominations. The Deputy President said the Constitution was clear on the role of IEBC in the nomination process.
The MPs said they would support recommendations to have IEBC carry out party primaries for all political parties and at the same time as the only way to ensure credible nominations.
In the National Assembly later in the afternoon, the contentious clauses locking party aspirants from party hopping were subject of intense lobbying even as the National Assembly began debate on two Bills that seek to improve the electoral process.
After amending the report of the joint select committee and expunging the section that barred political aspirants from jumping ship to another outfit after losing in the nominations, the House was confronted with an Election Laws (Amendment) Bill that had clauses that made it impossible to change political allegiance.
And while a majority of those who debated the bill supported the clauses in the bill that stops party hopping, others maintained that the move would deny Kenyans their fundamental rights, arguing that party primaries are often manipulated.
Kisumu Town West MP Olago Aluoch, one of the strongest voices against stopping hopping, demanded a ruling from the Speaker on whether it was in order for the House to be presented with a Bill bearing proposals that had been expunged from the joint committee’s report.
“If you read clauses eight to 12 carefully, looking at the time-lines stipulated, it makes it impossible for any person who is dissatisfied in the way nominations are done to exercise their democratic right and seek election through other vehicles. This is against what we passed in this House last week,” Aluoch said.
Member of the Speaker’s panel Chris Omulele, who was overseeing debate, promised that the ruling on the concerns by Aluoch would be delivered today before the Bill goes to the committee stage. He termed the concerns as weighty.
The sentiments by Aluoch were echoed by Emurua Dikirr MP Johanna Ng’eno who maintained that it would be wrong to stop members from crossing to other parties, if justice is denied to them by their parties.
“If God allows us to church-hop, He allows us to worship him wherever we want either in Catholic, Anglican Church, SDA, who are you to deny people the right to hop, you are not God, not Jesus Christ and not Satan,” claimed Ng’eno.
But Majority Leader Aden Duale led legislators in supporting the decision to stop hopping, saying time had come for leaders to make a choice on their political vehicles.
“As you go home tonight, before we vote on this Bill tomorrow, make a decision on whether you want to work with Kalonzo, Raila, Uhuru, Ruto or you will subject yourself to the will of clans as some of us do, otherwise you cannot keep on hopping until elections are announced,” Duale said.
Minority Leader Francis Nyenze, ODM MPs Millie Odhiambo and Opiyo Wandayi also backed bid to block party hopping.
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