Why two-thirds majority has eluded MPs

Some MP's watch proceedings from outside the house during the voting on finance bill in parliament on Thursday 201th September, 2018. [Photo: Roselyne Obala/Standard]

Overturning a presidential memorandum is no mean feat as it requires MPs to muster the requisite two-thirds majority (233 MPs) to override the head of State's recommendations.

And just like last year, the Finance Bill was again the subject of a stand-off between the President and the National Assembly. 

Last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta rejected the Finance Bill 2017 and recommended a 35 per cent tax on betting, lotteries and gaming activities. The MPs had deleted the clause and were unable to restore it because they couldn't muster the requisite numbers.

Yesterday, they tried to expunge the President's proposal for an eight per cent value added tax on petroleum products alongside others, but again, they fell short of the requisite numbers, according to a ruling by Speaker Justin Muturi as the assembly degenerated into a chaotic session.

Vetoing the President has always been a tall order as it requires a closing of ranks between the Government and the Opposition.

In February 2008, the monolithic Parliament then voted unanimously to alter the Constitution and create the position of prime minister and two deputies following the crisis triggered by the disputed 2007 presidential election results.

No-confidence motion

In July of the same year, the political career of Finance minister Amos Kimunya, now Kipipiri MP, came tumbling down after Parliament passed a motion of no-confidence against him. Mr Kimunya was on the spot for his handling of the transfer of the Grand Regency Hotel to Libyan investors.

In 2009, then Minister for Agriculture William Ruto, now Deputy President, survived a censure motion in Parliament amid heated debates that delineated succession wars and regional supremacy.

In September 2013, Kenyan MPs approved a motion to leave the International Criminal Court following an emergency debate that was boycotted by Opposition MPs.

Still in 2013, media practitioners were forced to adhere to the contents of the Kenya Information Communications Amendment Bill after Parliament failed to raise the requisite threshold of two-thirds majority to make amendments to the presidential memorandum.

In 2014, the National Assembly approved a contentious clause in the Powers and Privileges Amendment Bill 2014 that prohibited reporters from airing stories deemed defamatory to the House.

Parliament also passed a controversial security Bill during a fraught session that was adjourned twice after heated debate culminated in shouting matches and physical assaults.

The Jubilee coalition MPs approved the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 despite Opposition's accusations that Kenya would become a “police State”.

In 2015, the House passed the controversial National Police Service (Amendment) Bill despite spirited opposition from some MPs who termed the proposed law unconstitutional.

Mass protest

In 2017, the Opposition led by Raila Odinga called for a mass protest after an amended clause passed by MPs in the election laws allowed the country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to use a manual system of transmitting poll results and voter identification. The Opposition described the move as setting the stage for rigging the 2017 General Election.

The MPs also approved the controversial Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2017 that sought to strip IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati of his role as the sole returning officer of the presidential election.

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233 MPsMPsNational AssemblyPresident Uhuru KenyattaFinance Bill 201735 per cent tax on bettingGovernmentGrand Regency HoteParliamentDeputy PresidentInternational Criminal Court