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Wetang'ula faces litmus test over ruling on majority side in House

Speaker Moses Wetangula during the first swearing in of the MPs to the 13th Parliament at Parliament building on September 8,2022 [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula faces a major test of determining the majority and minority sides as Parliament resumes today.

It will be interesting to see how the Speaker will navigate the matter given that President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga have claimed the majority position belongs to their coalitions.

Azimio has a slight majority of 173 MPs over Kenya Kwanza that has 164 MPs while the House has 12 Independents. However, politically Kenya Kwanza has majority at more than 180 members, having signed agreements with some Azimio affiliate parties like the United Democratic Alliance (UDM), Pamoja African Alliance(PAA), Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) and Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG).

But Azimio maintains that UDM, PAA, MCC and MDG have not followed due process to move out and are legally members of the coalition party.

Wetang’ula has assured Kenya Kwanza and Azimio that he will handle the National Assembly leadership matter in a fair and impartial manner since as the Speaker of the House he is neutral.

“Having been elected the Speaker of the National Assembly I promise to handle this matter of which side is the majority side when it comes before me in fair manner. As the Speaker, I now belong to the whole House and will exercise my duties accordingly,” said Wetangula.

Kenya Kwanza and Azimio have picked their respective House leadership, setting the stage to clash. Kenya Kwanza has picked Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwah as National Assembly Majority Leader deputised by Kilifi North MP Owen Baya and while Azimio settled on Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi as Majority Leader deputized by Kathiani MP Robert Mbui.

The line-up

Kenya Kwanza has chosen South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro as National Assembly Majority Chief Whip deputised by Nominated MP Naomi Waqo while Azimio has picked Suna East MP Junet Mohammed as National Assembly Majority Chief Whip deputised by Nominated MP Sabina Chege. However, in the Senate there is clear majority and minority sides and the coalitions have picked their respective leadership.

Kenya Kwanza has settled on Kericho Senator Aron Cheruiyot as Senate Majority Leader deputised by Nakuru Senator Tabitha Karanja while Azimio has picked Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo as Minority Leader deputised by Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua. Kenya Kwanza has picked Kakamega Senator Bonnie Khalwale as Senate Majority Chief Whip deputized by Samburu Senator Steve Lelegwe while Azimio has settled on Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo as Senate Minority Chief Whip  deputized by Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna.

During a retreat with Kenya Kwanza legislators in Naivasha two weeks ago, Ruto said it was clear his coalition was the majority side in the Senate and National Assembly and challenged Azimio to honourably take the minority side.

“We have chosen the Majority leadership in the Senate and the National Assembly, our friends on the other side have to live with the reality that they are the minority side and should choose their leadership. We should not have any unnecessary contest over this matter,” said Dr Ruto.

The President said Kenyans had made their choice on the leadership that they will have for the next five years and the opposition should willingly take its place in Parliament and keep the government in check.

“We have heard our friends on the other side saying they are the Majority side in Parliament but we saw them failing to raise quorum to have them elect Speakers for the Senate and the National Assembly. This clearly shows they are the minority even without much explanation” said Ruto.

But Azimio presidential running mate Martha Karua has insisted they are the majority in the National Assembly.

Speaking during Azimio parliamentary group meeting two weeks ago, Karua said even though some leaders were warming up to Kenya Kwanza, due process must be followed if they want to move out.

“We are the largest party in Parliament and should get the positions of Majority Leader and the Majority Whip and all the things that go with the majority, our legislators must start strong in order to deliver by proving yourselves in the various parliamentary committees,” said Karua.