MPs to sit until eve of General Election to focus on poll laws

Joint Parliamentary session during an address by Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan on May 5, 2021. [David Njaaga, Standard]

The National Assembly will not adjourn until August 8, primarily to handle election laws even as Kenyans hit the ballot box on August 9, according to Majority Leader Amos Kimunya.

The 12th Parliament is in its second-last session for what Mr Kimunya termed a busy schedule with several Bills lined up for consideration. He said the MPs have returned with a full in-tray of over 100 pending Bills among them the Finance Bill which will include the supplementary budget aimed at addressing the current food crisis as well as another one for revenue-raising measures for the 2022/2023 financial year.

The Budget reading, he said was among the most important business and noted that the exercise was slated for April 7, which would be the last sitting day before MPs embark on a month-long recess.

Others to come up, Kimunya said were the election Amendment Bill, which seeks to amend certain clauses such as election campaign financing. Others are the Huduma Bill 2021, which seeks to anchor the National Identity Information Management System – popularly known as Huduma Namba.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and election law were top agenda of the House with MPs seeking to streamline management of the August 9 General Election.

Under the Political Parties Act, parties will no longer nominate members of the county assemblies of their choice as MPs have made the rules stricter.

Parties will now only nominate persons registered as voters in the county where they are to be nominated in what MPs say will tackle favouritism.

MPs unanimously voted in favour of the Elections (Amendment) Bill No41, 2021 that is on the second reading which seeks to bar political parties from nominating MCAs from outside the respective county.

“We need to get out of scenarios where people are getting their girlfriends from wherever and taking them to particular counties just to earn," said Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma.

Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo said people who have not worked in certain geographical areas get nominations because they have connections.

The Bill states that “a person shall not be nominated by a political party unless the person – at the date of the submission of the party-list - was a registered voter in any of the wards in the county in which the person is to be nominated.”

The legislators argued that the Bill would enhance equity and ensure the nominees of the county assembly seats reflect the face of the county. “If we continuously have the wrong person in the county assembly we will continuously lose the gains that were envisioned under the devolution system,” said Millie.

Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa said: “It will add a lot of value if you nominate someone from the county because when it comes to matters representation and traditions, then they will easily sync.”

Currently, the law simply provides that a person nominated by a political party shall be a person who is a member of the political party on the date of submission of the party-list, something MPs said has caused an outcry.

Campaign financial Bill

But the MPs opposed the Campaign Financing Bill that seeks to have the Auditor General scrutinise the accounts of political parties and candidates.

According to them, it was a matter that needed not to be publicised. 

“The Bill doesn’t recognise that we have losers. When you lose and they want to come and audit you yet you are at pains because in the first place you have lost money and they still want you to declare the little left, that person doesn’t need rocket science to finish you," said Kabuchai MP Majimbo Kalasinga.

But Kimunya said there is need to have regulations to ensure elections are not put in jeopardy, disclosing that the idea was borrowed abroad.

"It is important we tidy up our law, and in principle that law is not bad. It is a timely thing occasioned by the need to synchronise the law and regulations to control electoral financing," he said.

The Election Campaign Financing Act 2013 requires candidates and political parties that receive contributions for campaigns to issue receipts for amounts exceeding Sh20,000.