Azimio, Kenya Kwanza fight over numbers in search for majority

Parliamentary session during the first swearing in of the MPs to the 13th Parliament at the National Assembly on September 8,2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A heated debate yesterday took centre-stage in the National Assembly as the Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition parties both laid claim to designation of majority formation in the august House.

The political outfits had different interpretations of Article 108, which stipulates how the majority side is determined.

The legislators spoke after National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula opened the floor for debate hot on the heels of his admission that he was in receipt of three different sets of House leadership from Azimio la Umoja, Kenya Kwanza and Jubilee.

Wetang’ula revealed that following a Kenya Kwanza parliamentary group meeting, the alliance had proposed a line up of Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah as majority leader, Kilifi MP Owen Baya as deputy majority leader, and South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro as the majority chief whip deputised by Naomi Wago

Azimio had pitched Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi as majority leader and deputised by Robert Mbui, while Suna East MP Junet Mohamed was named as majority whip and deputised by Sabina Chege.

Jubilee Party fronted Mbalambala MP Shurie Abdi Omar as majority leader, Samuel Arama (Nakuru Town West) as whip and deputised by Sarah Korere (Laikipia North), while Eldas MP Adan Kenyan was fronted as secretary.

Mr Ichung’wah said that according to the law, Kenya Kwanza formed the largest coalition of political parties while Azimio was a single coalition party. “The Registrar of Political Parties allowed for Azimio to field individual candidates. There was only one candidate that run as an Azimio candidate complete with the emblem and that was Raila Odinga and his running mate Martha,” he said.

“Azimio Party is not a coalition parliamentary party because it has no representation in the House. ODM is the second largest party after the Kenya Kwanza Alliance in accordance with the Political Parties Act.”

Former Majority Leader and Garissa Township MP Aden Duale told members the House was paying for the misdeeds of the 12th Parliament “which hurriedly passed the Political Parties Act that had brought about ambiguity in the determination of who was the majority in Parliament.”

Mr Duale acknowledged that whereas some parties had signed pre-election agreements with the Azimio faction, their shifting to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance post-polls had shifted the scales of power in the House.

He said their competitors must not run away from the mess brought about by the Political Parties Amendment Act, 2021.

“According to the law, parties like MDG, PAA and Maendeleo Chap Chap enjoy political rights, including their right of association. They are free to associate with any coalition they wish. There is no section in the Political Parties Act that will stop the parties from leaving Azimio,” said Duale.

Coerced into pact

His sentiments were echoed by Mr Osoro who claimed that Azimio-affiliate parties had been coerced into signing a pre-election pact.

“An interpretation of Article 108 shows you that Azimio is a single party just like the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Jubilee parties, meaning that UDA is the majority in this House. Any agreement entered under duress is a nullity and Azimio cannot force parties that want out to remain in it. They have freedom of association and should be left to exercise it,” said Osoro.

Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) Party leader David Ochieng’ accused Azimio of operating in secrecy and not making available the coalition agreement to affiliate parties. “We were never served with a copy of the agreement. What Junet has tabled before this House is alien to us. In all Azimio organs, MDG is also not represented so how can we belong to a party with no representation?” said Ochieng.

But Azimio MPs made their case why they were the majority, quoting from a letter by the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, the law, and House traditions.

Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi said Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu had already settled the issue through her letter which indicated that Azimio had 26 affiliate parties- automatically making it the largest coalition.

“Upon confirmation by the Registrar of Political Parties and the law, the Speaker is expected to convey that Azimio is the majority party. Any other thing is nothing but hot air,” said Mr Wandayi.

On claims that Azimio was not a coalition but a coalition party, he argued that it was both- in line with a High Court ruling on the matter.

“As far as we are concerned, Azimio is both a coalition and a coalition party. No one has challenged that in court or otherwise. The Registrar of Political Parties is the custodian of all agreements and is the author of the letter we are relying on,” he said.

Drawing from other jurisdictions, he said, the matter of majority and minority coalitions is determined at the time of parliamentary elections hence the argument by Kenya Kwanza that it had entered into post-poll pacts with parties formally in Azimio did not hold.  

Junet said the Azimio pre-election agreement was still in force and that there were exit clauses to be followed.

“You cannot engage in another marriage before getting a divorce for the other you were in. We are past the era of disregarding agreements anyhow we want. The Constitution dictates that we respect instruments of agreement such as this because we are governed by rule of law,” he said.

Wetang’ula will rule on the matter today.

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