Delay to call House sitting sparks fears of legal crisis

The parliament buildings in Nairobi.

The Parliament Buildings in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Anxiety is slowly creeping in on the yet to be inaugurated 13th Parliament as reality dawns that the delay by President Uhuru Kenyatta to gazette its first sitting will put it in a tight corner with the election of Speakers in the public eye.

Failure by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to gazette the 12 nominated MPs in the National Assembly and 20 in the Senate is making the situation worse.

According to Article 126 (2) of the Constitution, the President is supposed to set a date and venue for the first sitting of a newly elected Parliament through a notice in the Kenya Gazette no more than 30 days after a General Election.

This means Mr Kenyatta has until this Friday to do so.

By yesterday, the first sitting of the two Houses after the general election, had not yet been gazetted.

The 30 days within which the President is required to gazette the first sitting of the two Houses ends on Friday this week, which is outside the appointed parliamentary sitting days.


Traditionally, the two Houses sit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday while in session to perform their legislative, oversight, representation and budget-making roles.

The swearings-in of MPs-elect and election of Speakers and their deputies are the only business provided for in the Constitution and Standing Orders during the first sitting of Parliament, which should be done from 9am.

Yesterday, Belgut MP-elect Nelson Koech accused President Kenyatta of committing an injustice against the institution of Parliament.

“We are staring at a crisis that may expose Parliament to litigation,” Mr Koech said.

Article 106 (1) of the constitution stipulates that there shall be a Speaker for each House of Parliament, who shall be elected by that House in accordance with the Standing Orders, from among persons who are qualified to be elected as MPs but are not such members.

The Standing Orders of the two Houses state that, upon the President notifying the place and date for the first sitting, the clerks of the two Houses shall through a gazette notice, invite interested persons to submit their nomination papers for election to the office of Speaker. 

The two Clerks are also required to appoint a nomination day and designate the place for the receipt of nomination papers “at least 48 hours before the time appointed at which the House is to meet to elect a Speaker.”

If a gazette notice comes out today appointing this Thursday as the sitting day, for instance, candidates will have until next Tuesday 9am to submit their applications. The question, therefore, is; at what time will the two clerks place adverts inviting applications to fill the vacancies in the two offices? Article 106 (2) further states that the office of Speaker or Deputy Speaker of either House shall become vacant when a new House of Parliament first meets after an election.

There are, however, other factors that may cause a vacancy in these offices, such as death, resignation, or removal by resolution of the house. Assuming the advertisement for the vacancies is caused, will the prospective candidates have enough time to submit their applications as set out in the Standing Orders?

What will put the prospective candidates at a disadvantage is that the Standing Orders have no provision for the online application of the positions.

This means that prospective candidates are required to physically pick the nomination papers from the offices of the clerks, fill them in and submit them in person, 48 hours to the sitting day.

Those seeking the Speakership in the National Assembly require the signatures of at least 20 MPs supporting their candidatures.

Senate speaker

Those in the race for the Senate Speaker require only two Senators; a proposer and a seconder.

So, at what time will those in the National Assembly Speakership race get to enlist their supporters? At what time will the Clerk of the National Assembly scrutinise the signatures of the prospective candidates to ensure they are authentic?

Upon the close of the nomination period provided, the two Clerks are required to publicize and make available to all the members in the two Houses, a list showing all qualified candidates. The members are also required to be furnished with the copies of the curriculum vitae of the qualified candidates.

Again, when will this happen given the time constraint?

“It is the duty of the MPs to evaluate the candidates in the race and see who has the capacity to improve debate in the House.”

“But from what is obtaining, it is that as the peoples’ representatives we will not be afforded time to interrogate the candidates who will have applied.”

“It is an abuse of parliamentary process,” said Mr Koech.