Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s troops in the National Assembly and Senate have hatched a four-pronged strategy to shoot down President William Ruto’s plans contained in the Finance Bill, 2023.
Among the plans by the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition is the push for an open vote, where an MP is called out and says whether he votes “Yes” or “No” for a particular clause of a bill.
Through this, Azimio believes the majority of MPs will fear facing the wrath of Kenyans. They will be seen as placing more burdens on citizens if they vote for the bill.
The coalition plans to collect information on the open voting and publicise it in its media platform “to expose MPs who voted in favour of more taxes and label them enemies of the people”.
The Sunday Nation has also learnt that Azimio is behind-the-scenes, mobilising ordinary Kenyans to send a memorandum to Parliament rejecting the revenue-raising proposals contained in the bill.
It is also encouraging different organisations to send rejection memorandums to Parliament.
The coalition will then use the memorandums to argue its point on the floor of the House during the debate, saying Kenyans from all walks of life have rejected the bill.
If push comes to shove, Azimio suggests, it is willing to go down the path of heckling their colleagues to disrupt the debate.
Some of the biggest proposals Azimio has rejected is a plan by the government to increase value-added tax (VAT) on petroleum products from eight to 16 per cent.
The opposition has also rejected plans for a Housing Fund – charged at three per cent of an employee’s gross salary, matched by the employer and capped at Sh5,000 – which they say is ill-advised.
“We wish to make it clear that as a party, we will try our best to ensure this anti-people budget is not passed by the National Assembly,” Mr Odinga said this week.
Deputy Minority Leader, Robert Mbui, told the Sunday Nation that the Finance Bill would be the first victory of Azimio over President Ruto in Parliament when the House resumes sittings on June 6.
“I’m very confident we are going to win on the floor of the House. We are going to fight on behalf of the Kenyans who elected us and who will suffer the most if this bill is passed in its current form,” Mr Mbui said.
“We will urge those in Kenya Kwanza to reject the bill on account of Kenyans wanting to have nothing to do with it.”
National Assembly Clerk, Samuel Njoroge, has notified Kenyans that they have until May 20 to submit their views on the bill for consideration by the House.
Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition has lined up amendments to every clause of the bill. The opposition says it will use the changes to derail the passage of the bill and push for the removal of the “punitive” proposals.
“We will propose amendments to every sentence in that bill and subject them to a public vote. Kenyans need to see who is voting for a proposal that will hurt them and who is speaking for them,” the Kathiani MP said.
Minority Whip in the National Assembly, Junet Mohamed, said the opposition would also come up with a finance bill as the government side tables theirs.
“Our experts are analysing the bill before coming up with a proper document. We will then come up with a finance bill to be shared with Kenyans before that one by the government is debated in the House,” Mr Mohamed said.
“We intend to show the government what a finance bill should look like. We will clearly document raising revenue without hurting Kenyans.”
Mr Mohamed, however, said the coalition would try and have a conversation with the government before the Finance Bill, 2023 is tabled.
“If they fail to listen, the opposition will devise ways of rejecting the Finance Bill, 2023,” the MP said.
Mr Mbui said if push comes to shove, the opposition would “take other measures should Kenya Kwanza force the bill down the throats of Kenyans”.
“We will not walk out this time. We will be there to fight for our people. We will take out the mace and will not allow them to muzzle us,” Mr Mbui said.
Targeting KK MPs
The coalition is also targeting Kenya Kwanza MPs, especially those serving their first term, saying it is too early for them to vote for a bill that will hurt their people.
On Wednesday, Mathira MP Eric wa Mumbi (United Democratic Alliance) said on his Facebook page that he is opposed to the bill.
“I will not be supporting the taxes proposed in the Finance Bill. Hatuwezi finyilia mwananchi mwenye amefinyika (we can’t add more suffering to the ordinary Kenyan) already. As a responsible Member of Parliament, I will stand with the people,” the post reads.
The opposition coalition says though some of its members were “deceived” to rally behind the government in Parliament, the Financial Bill is so unpopular that it would be politically suicidal to vote for it.
Kitui Central MP, Makali Mulu, said despite being the minority, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya lawmakers would use the debate to present their position to citizens so that the opposition is not blamed if the bill passes.
“If it is a Kenya Kwanza position, the bill is likely to pass as we are the minority but we are going to push for open voting,” Dr Mulu said.
He added that there is a chance of MPs not passing the bill but President Ruto may not sign it into law, opting instead to return it to the House with reservations which will require two-thirds of the members to overturn.
“Raising the two-thirds will be a headache. The bill may eventually become law. The government, however, needs to know that the bill is bad for Kenyans,” Dr Mulu said.
Azimio has singled out proposals in the bill it will oppose.
They include the increase of VAT on maize flour and pharmaceutical products, enhanced duty on imported cement and turnover tax on small businesses.
The coalition is also uncomfortable with income tax adjustment pegged at 35 per cent on those earning Sh500,000 a month, the three per cent deduction on salaries to support the Housing Fund, 15 per cent tax on digital content creators, taxation of per diem and beauty products.
The bill before the National Assembly provides revenue-raising measures by the government to finance the Sh3.6 trillion budget for the 2023/24 financial year which is the first under President Ruto.
Anglican Church of Kenya head Jackson ole Sapit has faulted the bill, saying it will pile more financial pressure on suffering Kenyans.
Archbishop Sapit called for the bill to be subjected to intense public scrutiny before it is tabled in Parliament.