Fresh efforts to frustrate parties Political Parties Bill as MPs return for debate today


Kenyan Parliament in session. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The circus witnessed in Parliament last week — when MPs exchanged brickbats past midnight — looks set to continue today when a divided House resumes debate on the controversial Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

The Standard has established that lawmakers allied to Deputy President William Ruto have filed new multiple amendments in their wider scheme to derail the passage of the Bill.

Clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai said at least six MPs allied to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) had by yesterday filed additional amendments.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale said that UDA had lined up 50 new amendments. The new development points to a scheme to maintain political grandstanding on the floor of the National Assembly.

MPs George Kariuki (Ndia), Nixon Korir (Lang’ata), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Cecil Mbarire (nominated) and Dido Rasso (Saku) have submitted new amendments ahead of today’s sitting. Debate is expected to continue tomorrow and on Friday.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, who had initially proposed amendments to seven clauses, has also proposed more changes to the Bill.

The House has convened for a special sitting to consider the Bill that has become a new battlefront pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga on one side against Ruto on the other.

National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya has also written to the Clerk seeking to revise some of his proposed amendments.

Some of the clauses that Kimunya seeks to amend include Clause 8, which sets the timeframe for coalition formation. The Bill had proposed at least six months before the August polls but he is now seeking to reduce it to at least 120 days (four months).

Kimunya is further planning to re-commit the amendment that Tigania West MP John Mutunga successfully pushed through the House.

Last Wednesday, Mutunga succeeded in making changes to clause 3 of the Bill, paving way for political parties to have a specific dominant colour, a move that Kimunya said did not make sense.

Yesterday, Sialai explained that Standing Orders allow MPs to introduce amendments at least 24 hours before the next sitting.

This implies that should the House fail to dispense with the Committee of the Whole House today, the MPs are free to submit additional amendments ahead of tomorrow’s and Friday’s sittings.

“The door is open for members to file more amendments. The Standing Orders provide that a member can file an amendment 24 hours before a sitting. Around five members had filed an amendment by the 10am deadline,” said Sialai.

One was nominated Cecily Mbarire is also seeking to amend Clause 8 to have coalitions formed 90 days after a general election. She also wants Clauses 19 and 20 deleted.

MP Dido Rasso is seeking to have coalitions formed 145 days before a general election from the proposed six months.

He has also proposed further amendments on seven clauses.

Ruto’s camp is further scheming to exploit requirements of having the Bill go to the Senate for consideration by introducing further amendments so as to cause a standoff between the two Houses.

Since the Bill concerns county governments based on Article 110(1) of the Constitution, it will be considered by the National Assembly as well as Senate.

In the Senate, the Bill will undergo all the stages required for consideration — from the First Reading, public participation, Second Reading, Committee of the Whole House and Third Reading.

If the Senate passes the Bill without introducing any amendments, it will be forwarded to the President to sign it into law.

However, should the Senate introduce amendments, the Bill will be resubmitted to the National Assembly for concurrence.

Instructively, if the National Assembly disagrees with the new amendments, the Bill will proceed for mediation.

A mediation team is made up of selected members from the two Houses. Their mandate is to strike a deal by coming up with a compromise version. If the team agrees, the new version will be forwarded to the President for assent.

However, if they fail to agree, the Bill will be declared dead.

Yesterday, Duale warned proponents of the Bill that they should prepare for a long and winding political battle.

He claimed there was a scheme to bulldoze political parties into entering coalition arrangements even when they are not ready.

“Case in point is Clause 8(b) of the Bill, which provides that coalition agreements by coalition political parties must be submitted at least six months before a General Election,” said Duale.

Proponents of the Bill and the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) have since agreed to reduce the time from six months to 120 days (four months).

“It is rather obvious from the timing of the Bill and the manner in which the National Assembly has been recalled for Special Sittings severally and in an erratic manner, that the agenda is not to discuss matters of concern for our people but to discuss and advance a purely selfish political agenda,” said Duale.

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa hinted at UDA’s plan to force a standoff and subsequent formation of a mediation committee of the two Houses.