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Uhuru and Raila bulldoze their MPs to retain party hopping rule in Bill

By Moses Njagih | September 2nd 2016 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga bulldozed their MPs to abandon resistance to a party-hopping rule as the House passed two electoral Bills without changes.

A day after Deputy President William Ruto told Jubilee MPs that he and the President will not tolerate attempts to expunge a clause barring defections after party primaries, Raila yesterday, too, whipped Opposition lawmakers to ensure the Bills were not altered.

The MPs, who had initially removed the restriction from the main report and filed further proposals targeting the two bills, eventually buckled under the pressure from the party chiefs who are determined to lock in all politicians to their first party of choice irrespective of the outcome of nominations.

And as the last frontier of resistance crumbled, members of the National Assembly opposed any form of amendments to the proposed laws, sitting late to conclude the formalities on the Bills before they went for their long recess.

The legislators were hostile to any member who proposed any form of amendment to the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill and the Election Offences Bill and shot down the proposed changes by acclamation.

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Raila had earlier met his legislators and asked them to pass the two laws without any amendments, as the Senate had done last week.

"...Hon Odinga has asked all the Opposition MPs to support the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill without seeking any amendments... Odinga said the country has more to gain by the Bill being passed as it is," said a statement released by his spokesman.

And the CORD legislators particularly displayed their loyalty as they filled the chambers and opposed any amendment introduced to the Bills.

Opposition MPs who had earlier proposed amendments to the bill dropped them, insisting that their party leader had read the entire bill and found it fit and requiring no form of amendments.

"'Baba' has read this bill and found it to be good and therefore I drop all amendments that I had proposed," said Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma.

Mr Kaluma also shouted down Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Samuel Chepkonga for insisting on moving the committee's amendments when it was apparent that the House was not in the mood to entertain any.

"Today is the day of the tyranny of the loyalists," added Kaluma, as he urged those with pending amendments to follow suit and drop them.

Majority Leader Aden Duale, who had also lined up a couple of amendments, said the Jubilee bosses had instructed that the coalition ensures the Bills were passed without amendments.

He said that the Jubilee leadership notably wanted party hopping after nominations stopped.

"I withdraw all my amendments. That has always been my position from the beginning. I am happy that even 'Baba' has prevailed upon his members that we pass these Bills without any amendments," said Duale.

Chepkonga, who had initially stood his ground, insisting that he could not withdraw his amendments as they were sanctioned by the committee and that he had no instructions from members to drop them, had to eat a humble pie.

He rescinded the decision after the House turned hostile to anyone trying to alter the Bills.

"I have been approached by the Majority Leader and the Whip and consequently, I have decided to drop all but two amendments," said the Ainabkoi MP.

Of the two amendments that Chepkonga would later move was one requiring that the law comes into force immediately upon publication instead of waiting for the mandatory 21 days. But that, too, was rejected.

Pleas by Emurua Dikirr MP Johanna Ng'eno that MPs allow his amendment to allow those seeking political office to party hop were dismissed, even as he warned that the move could be dictatorial.

"The clause restricting party hopping is draconian and very offensive. It was sneaked in this Bill by someone with instructions from his party leader, and we should delete it so that if you go for nomination and you are humiliated, you have a place to go," argued Ng'eno.

only orphan

However, he did little to convince MPs and had to also drop his subsequent proposals for further amendments.

"I have been trying to lobby members but they are all telling me that 'Baba amesema'. It appears that I am the only orphan here without a 'Baba' or a 'Mama'," the MP said in resignation.

Earlier, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi had dashed the hopes of those who were opposing the decision to stop party hopping, saying contentious clauses in the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill were rightly placed in the proposed law.

Kisumu Town West MP Olago Aluoch, one of the MPs who had opposed the decision to curb party hopping, had asked the Speaker to give a ruling on the same, arguing that legislators had expunged the section of the Joint Select Committee's report that had outlawed changing of parties after nominations.

Aluoch had argued that it would be illegal for the bill to now contain clauses that made it impossible for party hopping.

But Muturi said he saw nothing wrong with the clauses challenged.

"It is therefore evident that the time-lines contained in the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill are not new or unusual. I must note that, in addition, I have scrutinised the bill and I do not find any provision that may be interpreted as violating the fundamental rights and freedoms afforded under the Constitution, including the freedom of association and political rights," said Speaker Muturi.

The Bills will now be considered by the Senate.

party hopping joint parliamentary select committee IEBC uhuru kenyatta raila odinga
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