Senators pass Bill scrapping degree requirement for MPs

Senate in a previous session. [Standard]

Senators have unanimously passed a Bill scrapping degree requirement for MP aspirants.

The vote by the Senate is a major win for hundreds of aspirants in the August polls including sitting lawmakers who do not have the requisite academic papers.

All the 27 senators present during the Wednesday sitting voted for the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2021 as the political class appear to gang up against the law.

The Bill that was sponsored by Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen is set to be introduced in the National Assembly for consideration before it can be enacted into law.

The new Bill seeks to amend Section 22 of the Elections Act, 2011 that made a university degree mandatory for those seeking to run for MP and MCA positions.

Murkomen’s Bill lists the ability to read and write as the only requirement.

The vote by the House comes even as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) recently insisted that MP aspirants must meet the degree requirement.

MCA aspirants have since escaped the requirement after the High Court in a judgement declared section 22 of the Elections Act unconstitutional.

"Unless declared unconstitutional by the Court, the degree requirement for Members of Parliament is in force and is trite law," said IEBC chief executive Marjan Hussein.

Murkomen yesterday commended senators for backing the Bill while citing the 2109 Census that placed Kenyans with a university degree at only 3.5 per cent.

“Kenya Census 2019 showed that only 3.5 per cent of Kenya’s population are university graduates. I want to thank my colleagues in the Senate for approving my Elections (Amendment) Bill and giving a chance to millions of Kenyans to enjoy their political rights under Art.38 of our Constitution,” he said.

The senator argued that making academic papers a requirement for elective positions would lock out many people with leadership attributes.

“The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Elections Act, No 24 of 2011, to enable a person who is able to read and write to be nominated as a candidate for elections as a Member of Parliament,” states the Bill.

“Section 22 of the Elections Act is amended in subsection (1) by deleting paragraph (b) and substituting therefore the following new paragraph – (b) is able to read and write in the English or Kiswahili language or, in the case of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, is literate in the Kenya sign language,” it states.

He says Article 38(3) of the Constitution provides that – every adult citizen has the right, without unreasonable restrictions – to be a registered voter, to vote by secret ballot in any election or referendum and be a candidate for public office within a political party of which the citizen is a member and elected, to hold office.

Currently, the Elections Act only makes it mandatory for the presidential aspirant and running mate as well as governors and their running mates to be degree holders.

The law was passed by Parliament in the run up to 2017 polls but the MPs suspended its implementation to next year’s poll.