Parliament

There was chaos in Parliament on December 29, 2021 as MPs debated the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill. During the highly-charged session, MP’s allied to President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga managed to defeat all the amendments proposed by DP Ruto’s allies.

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How Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga outfoxed William Ruto on the coalitions Bill

What you need to know:

  • Dr Ruto’s camp had managed to derail passage of the proposed law since the first special sitting on December 22 and 23.
  • However, in the latest sitting on Wednesday, President Kenyatta’s and Mr Odinga’s lawmakers prevailed. 

Numerical strength, reaching out to third parties and building consensus on contentious clauses are some of the strategies that facilitated the passage of the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill by the National Assembly.

Allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga had to go back to the drawing board after coming up against fierce rebellion mounted by MPs allied to Deputy President William Ruto and his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party.

Dr Ruto’s camp had managed to derail passage of the proposed law since the first special sitting on December 22 and 23.

The following week, the UDA camp again managed to upset the Handshake side’s plans to pass the Bill that is expected to make way for an ODM and Jubilee coalition party ahead of the August General Election. However, in the latest sitting on Wednesday, President Kenyatta’s and Mr Odinga’s lawmakers prevailed. 

Stunned by narrow victories on multiple amendments and the spectre of the DP’s camp ganging up with some within the Handshake ranks who were opposed to some proposals, the proponents of the Bill sought to build consensus ahead of the final showdown.

They realised, for instance, that the clause requiring a coalition party to deposit its agreement with the Registrar of Political Parties six months before a General Election was facing opposition even from within.

They, therefore, compromised to four months. This was quickly accepted by MPs allied to Mr Musalia Mudavadi of ANC and Mr Moses Wetang’ula of Ford Kenya, thus puncturing a strategy by the DP’s allies to scuttle the Bill by working with other parties.

Chaotic show

After a chaotic show last week, majority Leader Amos Kimunya confirmed to the Nation that he held meetings with a section of MPs from other parties who had proposed amendments, which saw the likes of Ugenya MP David Ochieng drop their amendments.

“After consulting with the majority leader, I wish to withdraw my amendments,” Mr Ochieng said amid foot thumping from the Handshake side.

To deal with the time-wasting strategy deployed by Tangatanga camp in the previous sittings, Parliament allowed electronic voting. So efficient was the system that it only took one minute for the results to be determined.

Noting that things were not going their way, the UDA MPs blamed their frustrations on the electronic system.

“It is not lost on us that only the system on our side is not working and if the IT people have been compromised then we will not proceed with this exercise,” thundered nominated MP Cecily Mbarire on a point of order.

A push to revert to the manual system failed after Director of Legislative and Procedural Services Samuel Njoroge confirmed to the session chairperson Jessica Mbalu that the entire system was working well.

The number of parliamentary orderlies was also increased from the normal 20 to 30 to secure the Speaker, mace, clerks and ensure order prevailed.

Ugly scenes

Five orderlies surrounded the table where mace is placed. Three were permanently behind the clerks’ table while two stood at the rear doors beside the Speakers’ chair.

“All those who were on leave were recalled. We also had the back-up of officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the National Intelligence Service at strategic places outside the chambers just in case of anything,” said one of the orderlies who requested not be named.

In order to avoid ugly scenes as witnessed last week – when MPs used water bottles to fight each other – the water bottles were this time placed at the entrance, with a stern warning from the Speaker that anyone who wanted to quench his or her thirst had to do so outside the chamber.

The return of Speaker Justin Muturi also helped streamline operations in the House. He made it clear before the session began that he would not allow crowding around his table, a tactic used by the DP’s allies in previous sittings to frustrate the process.

“There will be no need for any member to come and crowd at the Speaker’s table. Those who have problems with their cards should have them sorted out at the Clerk’s office,” he ruled.

Mr Muturi also thwarted an attempt by opponents to the proposed law to re-introduce Clause 7(e) of the Bill, which provided that the registrar may decline to register a party if, among other things, the slogan of the political party is against public interest, over a technicality.

Minority Whip Junet Mohamed said Parliament itself was more organised for the special sitting.

Special sitting

“Our members had also learnt their lessons from the previous sittings and were ready to handle the DP allies and their theatrics,” Mr Mohamed said.

He added that mobilisation of their members two days before the sitting had done the trick, revealing that he had been tasked with taking a roll call and guiding the Handshake MPs on how to vote for the various proposals.

The Bill now goes to the Senate where the Nation has been informed of a special sitting scheduled for next Tuesday, where it will be introduced for first reading.

Nairobi Senator Johnstone Sakaja said they expect a robust and mature debate devoid of the kind of drama witnessed in the National Assembly.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said: “We have distinguished ourselves on our conduct of debate.” 

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said the Bill is likely to be referred to the mediation committee as they will not allow certain clauses, such as the role of the Registrar of Political Parties on party nominations, to sail through.

“Senate is a sober House and a voice of reason. We expect debate focusing on issues. I know our colleagues in Azimio want to score political points but as UDA, we are ready for the duel,” Mr Cherargei said.

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