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Parliament to prioritise key Bills on election reforms this session

By Moses Njagih | January 2nd 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi. [File, Standard]

Legislators are looking forward to a more robust fourth session of the 12th Parliament this year after a comparatively underwhelming last session.

This will be the penultimate stage of the life of the current House, with some key legislation awaiting consideration in both the National Assembly and the Senate.

Though the first two sessions had high productivity in terms of legislation passed by the two Houses, admittedly due to some Bills which had set constitutional deadlines, 2019 appeared a slow session, with 48 Bills sponsored by private members still pending.

With the famous “Article 100 Bill” being the only remaining proposed legislation with constitutional timeline, it could be an even slower session for Parliament in 2020. The Bill seeks to ensure improved representation for women, youth, persons with disabilities, marginalised communities and the minorities.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi says the Bill will be among the key priorities in 2020.

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“It is the only Bill with set constitutional timeline that is still pending. The Bill will give effect to Article 100 of the Constitution. We hope to conclude its consideration quite early in the next session,” said Mr Muturi.

But 2020 could be a defining year for the 12th Parliament if the proposals in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Task force report will end up before the House, as it looks most likely.

Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale said 2020 will be a reform year, where many legislation to reform the country could come before the House.

With the politics surrounding the BBI report already widening the division, especially within the Jubilee Party, it could provide the two Houses with fodder for fierce contest, giving the debating chambers the traditional spark that has lately been missing, especially after the March 2018 “Handshake” that somehow unified the majority and minority sides.

Though debate has been widespread and divided on whether the BBI report would lead to a referendum, the year could prove defining since before the plebiscite is called, Parliament will have to first enact a referendum law to guide the process.

Mr Duale said 2020 will certainly be an eventful year as key legislation will be lined up, in the form of reform Bills and electoral-related laws.

“We have very serious Bills that we must consider. One that is likely to be of much interest is the Conflict of Interest Bill, and of course we will be awaiting other laws from the Attorney General and our Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, including the Referendum Bill.

“Whether or not we will have a referendum through the BBI, we must have a Referendum Law in place. So it will be a priority,” said Duale.

The Garissa Township MP waded into the politics of the report, particularly on the system of governance that the country should adopt after the BBI report recommended the re-introduction of the position of prime minister.

“The country should decide what system of governance is appropriate. If it is parliamentary, which I believe in, we should start collecting signatures as early as January. If it is a modified presidential system, the policy and legislative process should begin and be done in a bipartisan way,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader James Orengo also anticipates a more robust year as a result of the BBI report, saying it was apparent that a referendum was inevitable.

"The questions raised in the BBI report and the recommendations made are so fundamental that they must be addressed through a populous initiative," said Mr Orengo.

Moses Njagih Parliament BBI report Senate
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