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Total control: Why Ruto is taking no prisoners in plan to shore up numbers in parliament

 President William Ruto is escorted out by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula(left) and Senate Speaker Amason Kingi during the opening of the 13th Parliament at Parliament on September 29, 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

President William Ruto is pushing to have an absolute majority in Parliament to push his legislative agenda as the Houses resume sittings tomorrow after a long recess.

The President has cast his net wider in the Opposition camp winning over a section of Jubilee and ODM lawmakers who have agreed to work with Kenya Kwanza.

If Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir (Independent) and the seven ODM MPs who met Ruto and all their 34 Jubilee counterparts cross the floor, Ruto would hit 231 MPs, just two MPs shy of the supermajority, pegged at 233 MPs.

In a memorandum dated December 9, 2022, addressed to National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang'ula and Senate Speaker Amason Kingi, President Ruto proposed amendments to the Constitution and he will require the numbers in Parliament to have his way.

The Speakers will have to give priority to the Head of State's memorandum which came when lawmakers had already proceeded to recess.

In the memorandum, Ruto wants to resolve the stalemate on the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule and has proposed that Parliament amends the Constitution to come up with a formula that will guide the computation of the gender ratio in the National Assembly.

"On compliance with the gender inclusion framework of the two-thirds gender rule, it is regrettable that implementation has become a conundrum that has remained unresolved for too long, there is a profound sense that we have failed Kenya's women and I believe it is time to make a decisive breakthrough," he said.

The President has recommended that Parliament amends Standing Orders to facilitate the participation of Cabinet Secretaries and Chief Administrative Secretaries in parliamentary proceedings particularly by responding to questions raised by MPs.

CDF kitty

Ruto, in the memorandum, noted that the 13th Parliament had taken up the matter of making up the Constituency Development Fund to exist under an appropriate framework through the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2022.

"The proposed insertion of Article 204A to establish the National Government Constituency Development Fund, Senate Oversight and the National Government Affirmative Action Funds to be drawn out of the national government shareable revenue are sufficient for purposes of conformity with the express implicit parameters set out by the constitution," he said.

Ruto wants Parliament to consider an amendment to Chapter 9 of the Constitution to establish the office of official leader of Opposition.

He said that the transition of the presidential system, coupled with the exclusion of the presidential candidates from simultaneously contesting parliamentary seats in a General Election created a novel political paradigm shift with the overall Leader of the Minority excluded from meaningful political participation.

The President believes the idea of Official Opposition, above and beyond mere minority parliamentary leadership, makes tremendous sense in terms of institutionalising governance, strengthening oversight, and deepening democracy with now being time for remedying the shortcomings.

Ruto embarked on a charm offensive of Opposition lawmakers in efforts to boost numbers of his Kenya Kwanza Alliance in Parliament so that he can have the two-thirds majority that will make it easier for him to push any constitutional amendments.

He met 30 Jubilee MPs and eight ODM lawmakers at State House, Nairobi, last week in efforts to boost his numbers in Parliament in what political pundits see as efforts to weaken the Opposition.

"You have a right to make choices as Kenya is a democratic country, you are now our members going forward and we will treat you as such, I will be banking on you to push the government agenda in both the National Assembly and the Senate," Ruto told Jubilee MPs.

ODM lawmakers - Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda and MPs Shakeel Shabir (Kisumu Town East), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Mark Nyamita(Uriri), Elisha Odhiambo(Gem), Paul Abuor(Rongo) John Owino (Awendo) and Felix Odiwuor(Langata) held a meeting with the President.

While acknowledging the meeting with the Luo Nyanza MPs Ruto on his official Twitter handle, Ruto said leaders must join hands, foster coexistence and work together in confronting the challenges facing our country.

"They must endeavour to lead by example and serve the interest of the people. This is a sure route to a more united and developed Kenya. At State House, Nairobi, held a consultative meeting with MPs from Nyanza following a recent visit to the region," he tweeted.

The government and the Opposition sides in the bicameral Parliament are expected to have highly charged political sessions with each pushing to have Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga's agenda sail through.

The National Assembly will be considering the first supplementary budget in Ruto's administration, with Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwah saying they will be racing against time to ensure the matter is concluded as soon as possible for smooth government operations.

"The supplementary budget is very crucial in the running of government affairs, that is why we are keen on having various committees complete their work and engage the budget committee so that we are done away with this business by March 1 this year," said Ichungwah.

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said that Azimio legislators are only concerned about the high cost of living.

Cost of living

Wandayi said the Opposition will scrutinise the agenda brought by the Kenya Kwanza government to the National Assembly.

"Azimio is not interested in amendment of the Constitution at the moment. We are interested in how the Kenya Kwanza administration will lower the cost of living for millions of Kenyans who no longer afford food. The other issues are not important," he said.

National Assembly Departmental Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs Vice Chairperson Mwengi Mutuse said that Parliament is going to debate various proposals made by the President before it is decided whether the parliamentary initiative or popular vote will be used.

The Senate will be approving names of members of the Senate Business Committee which will be chaired by Speaker Kingi, with Senate Majority Leader Aron Cheruiyot, Senate Minority Leader Stewart Madzayo, Senate Majority Whip Boni Khalwale and Senate Minority Whip Fatuma Dullo being members.

Senators; Ali Roba(Mandera), Veronica Maina (Nominated), Hillary Sigei(Bomet), Maureen Mutinda(Nominated), Margaret Kamar (Nominated), Mohamed Faki (Mombasa) and Ledama ole Kina (Narok) will be presented for approval by the House to join the Senate Business Committee.

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