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Azimio and Kenya Kwanza leaders dig in amid majority slots impasse

Kenya Kwanza on Saturday unveiled Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwah (left) as the Majority Leader while Azimio picked Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi. [File, Standard]

The creation of Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition party could stand in the way of his claim for the majority position in the National Assembly.  

President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio have locked horns over who takes the majority and minority positions in the 13th Parliament.

National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula is expected to rule on the matter given that politically, Kenya Kwanza is the majority in the House but legally Azimio is the majority. Azimio has 174 MPs against Kenya Kwanza’s 162.

Article 108 of the Constitution provides that “there shall be a leader of the majority party and a leader of the minority party. The leader of the majority party shall be the person who is the leader in the National Assembly of the largest party or coalition of parties.”

“The leader of the minority party shall be the person who is the leader in the National Assembly of the second largest party or coalition of parties.”

Kenya Kwanza has insisted they have the majority in the National Assembly and on Saturday, President William Ruto unveiled Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwah as the Majority Leader to be deputised by his Kilifi North counterpart Owen Baya. 

Mugirango South MP Sylvanus Osoro will be the Majority Whip in the National Assembly to be deputised by Nominated MP Naomi Waqo. However, on the same day, Azimio leader Raila picked Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi as Majority Leader in the National Assembly to be deputised by Kathiani MP Robert Mbui while Suna East MP Junet Mohamed would be Majority Chief Whip and Nominated MP Sabina Chege the deputy.

Coalition party

Constitutional lawyer Bobby Mkangi argued that there is a dilemma since Azimio was registered as a coalition political party and not a coalition.

“Azimio has not sponsored any person to Parliament. In all cases, it is individual parties such as ODM. The question would be why Azimio did not sponsor its candidates,” Mr Mkangi said.

He argued that Azimio, as currently constituted, cannot take the life of a coalition and the matter requires legal scrutiny.

“In as much as Azimio did not sponsor candidates, the constituent parties did and the Political Parties Act, as amended, allows that. The Act allows that corporate entities could form a coalition party but the courts are yet to determine whether that is possible. Globally, it is known that individuals form parties and not corporate entities,” Mkangi said.

“Our Constitution does not give a categorical definition of a political party and the same Constitution allows corporate entities to be persons. It was ingenious of Azimio to create the provision of a coalition political party,” he added.

“Azimio is a party formed by a group of parties, it is not a coalition per se,” said constitutional lawyer Kibe Mungai.

“By all means, Azimio is not a parliamentary party. They just wanted the presidency… there were only two candidates in Azimio. The political agreement deposited with the Registrar of Political Parties would derive its existence from an electoral win… now that its candidates (Raila and Martha Karua) did not win, by all definitions, Azimio is all but dead,” he added.

Yesterday, Mr Ichung’wah said the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) was the party with the majority in the House and therefore slated to take its position in the National Assembly.

No single MP

“As it stands, UDA is the majority party followed by ODM which will be the minority party. Azimio as a party does not have a single MP and therefore not a parliamentary party, on the contrary, Kenya Kwanza is still the coalition with majority, so there is no debate about it,” he said.. 

But Wandayi said there is no ruling to be made by the Speaker and Kenya Kwanza was just splitting hairs.

“We live in a nation governed by the rule of law and everyone has a duty to defend the Constitution and uphold the rule of law,” he said. “The Constitution, the Political Parties Act, and the Standing Orders are so clear, unambiguous, and explicit that there can be no room for doubt.”

Suna East MP Junet concurred with Wandayi saying: “We don’t anticipate any debate because the law is unambiguous.”

“Coalition agreements are deposited with the Registrar of Political Parties and have exit clauses anchored in law. Unless Ruto’s regime wants to start off with lawlessness and disregard of the rule of law, there is no question of who the majority is,” he added.

“We will go to court if the wrong decision is made,” Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo said.

Addressing the Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group meeting in Sawela Lodge, Naivasha over the weekend, Ruto dismissed the assertion by Azimio that it has majority in the National Assembly and challenged the leadership to focus on offering oversight of his administration.

“I have heard Azimio say they have the numbers....if they could not raise a candidate for the Senate’s Speaker’s job what numbers are they talking about?,” posed Ruto.

“Our friends on the other side will choose the minority leaders. Let’s not argue who is the minority here,” he added.

The Executive Director of the Azimio secretariat Raphael Tuju said the RPP, lawyers, and the parliamentarians will deal with the matter. “The is going to be a push and pull and each will argue within the law, some may take advantage. Eventually, there will be a solution to the matter,” said Tuju.

Due process

On April 13, Azimio la Umoja One-Kenya was formally registered as a coalition political party days after Registrar of Political Parties Ann Nderitu gave notice to members of the public that the outfit comprising of 23 political parties had been duly registered following due process.

The coalition had on April 1, 2022, deposited the contents of the alliance agreement in Nderitu’s office. Ms Nderitu yesterday said Azimio was both a coalition and a party at the same time.

“Azimio is a coalition and party at the same time,” said Ms Nderitu. However, in the Senate, there is no battle as Kenya Kwanza will take the majority while Azimio picks the minority.

Kenya Kwanza has fronted Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot as the Majority Leader to be deputised by Tabitah Karanja (Nakuru). Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale will be the Majority Whip with Stephen Lelegwe (Samburu) as his deputy.

Raila’s team has settled on Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo as Minority Leader to be deputised by Kitui’s Enoch Wambua. Others picked are Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo who will be the Minority Whip with Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna as deputy. Kenya Kwanza secured Speaker for National Assembly and Senate.