Azimio rejects new taxes, seeks by-elections

Azimio la Umoja leaders led by Raila Odinga during Tuesday’s parliamentary group (PG) meeting. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Azimio la Umoja has trained its guns on President William Ruto’s proposed Finance Bill, 2023 and asked Jubilee MPs allied to Kenya Kwanza to brace themselves for by-elections.

During Tuesday’s parliamentary group (PG) meeting, the coalition focused on the reorganisation of its leadership in the National Assembly, an in-depth analysis of the Finance Bill 2023, and the status of the joint bipartisan talks.

The meeting’s push that the government withdraws and rewrites the Finance Bill failure to which they will not resume talks could see the opposition go back to the streets.

President William Ruto has reiterated that the bill will sail through in spite of the opposition.

Speaking in Siaya recently, Azimio leader Raila Odinga said time was running out and resorting to protests was an option on the table.

Raila said, while donating foodstuffs to families affected by floods in Nyodera, they would return to the streets if their concerns were not resolved.

“We gave the committee only one month. They have two weeks to finish and give us feedback. Should they not finish well, we will return to the streets,” he said.

Tuesday’s meeting follows another one last week where the coalition endorsed the decision to walk out of the talks until their concerns were addressed.

Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi expressed strong opposition to the Finance Bill, 2023, saying those supporting it are not living in the current reality.

“Our PG has taken an extremely dim view of the arrogance with which the Kenya Kwanza administration wants to take billions out of the pockets of some of the poorest people while expecting them to cheer. Kenya Kwanza’s position on the Finance Bill is to take or leave it,” said Mr Wandayi.

Although the coalition did not disclose the line of action it will take to stop approval of the Bill in Parliament, it disclosed that it will not let it pass without a fight.

“We have refused to sit back and watch Kenyans being harassed to fix a cash crunch caused by economic mismanagement, wasteful spending, and skewed and incompetent hiring into critical public positions,” said Wandayi.

On leadership in the National Assembly, Azimio is calling for the office of the Registrar of Political Parties to enforce the resolutions of leadership changes reached by Jubilee Party during its National Delegates Conference.

In furtherance of those resolutions by Jubilee NDC, Azimio settled on Embakasi West MP Mark Mwenje, as Deputy Minority Whip of the National Assembly, replacing Nominated MP Sabina Chege, who is allied to Kenya Kwanza coalition.

Wandayi also conveyed the party’s position that the concessions made by Kenya Kwanza were insufficient to resume negotiations.

The government has so far agreed on conceding on two fronts including willingness to co-author a letter addressed to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The letter is meant to remind IEBC of its legal obligation to preserve the Presidential Election Servers and the data contained within them. Another letter will request them to halt recruitment process for commissioners for about 21-30 days.

The other is a willingness to commit in writing their intent to respect the ruling made by the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal (PPDT), which last week saved two senior Jubilee leaders allied to Azimio from expulsion. The matter is still open for resolution.

Azimio argues that they have no offers on the most critical matter which involves lowering the cost of living because “the government is married to the Finance Bill”.

Azimio is also calling for all Jubilee MPs aligned to the Kenya Kwanza coalition to face by-elections. The party is also urging Jubilee MPs holding parliamentary leadership positions to relinquish them.

“We resolve that other than merely committing not to interfere in the affairs of other parties, Kenya Kwanza must agree that all Jubilee MPs who have defected have to face by-elections, in line with the constitution,” said Wandayi.

Azimio now maintains that the talks remain suspended until the government complies with its demands.