Senator Kang'ata Irungu

Senator Irungu Kang'ata.

| Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

DP allies plot court action against new parties law

What you need to know:

  • Dr Ruto-allied lawmakers opposed the Bill while supporters of Mr Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga backed it.
  • The DP's brigades say they are ready to work with civic-minded activists to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

Deputy President William Ruto’s allies say they will work with activists to challenge the political parties law, even as some described it as a blessing in disguise.

The Political Parties (Amendment), endorsed by the Senate on Wednesday and signed into law by President Kenyatta on Thursday, sets rules for coalitions and allows parties to have a joint presidential candidate, among other proposals. 

The bill was a bone of contention in the National Assembly and the Senate. Dr Ruto-allied lawmakers opposed it while supporters of Mr Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga backed it.

DP Ruto’s brigades say they are ready to work with civic-minded activists to challenge the constitutionality of the law, describing it as discriminatory and one aimed at shoring up Mr Odinga’s election prospects in the August polls.

They singled out clauses that they say are unconstitutional and usurp the powers of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Clause 22, they argue, gives the Registrar of Political Parties sweeping powers to oversee nominations and provide a certified list of participants thus usurping the powers of the IEBC.

“We shall go to court. Either we shall go as a party or urge civic-minded activists to do so. Our main concern is Clause 22, which grants (the Registrar of Political Parties) powers to manage parties' registers and nominations,” Murang’a Senator Irung’u Kangata told the Nation.

Stifle democracy

The bill, he said, forces political parties to use only one type of nomination, arguing that will stifle democracy.

“We have closed and open nominations. Open nominations allow non-members to participate in party primaries. Closed nominations are the opposite,” he explained. 

“Good democracies leave the issues of choosing either open or closed (nominations) to parties. This new law will make Kenya use exclusively ‘closed primaries’.”

This, he argued, “embeds polarisation as parties will nominate ‘radicals’” and will destabilise Kenya’s ethnically divided society.

The next stop for DP Ruto’s camp after the bill was signed into law, said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, is the courts.

Their case will be “on matters of procedure, constitutionality of the laws, duplications of roles between Registrar of Political Parties and IEBC”.

Dr Ruto’s allies are working on a fight-back plan and are determined to sue, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, a staunch ally of the DP, told the Nation. 

Signed into law

“We are confident that we will win in this battle,” he said.

Bomet Senator Dr Christopher Langat said the law is discriminatory and the DP’s side will challenge it in court.

“We are set to meet and agree on the nitty-gritty as we build our case so that the moment it is signed into law, we are ready to be in the corridors of justice,” he said.

But Elgeyo-Marakwet Kipchumba Murkomen seemed to suggest that the bill is a blow to the DP’s opponents instead. 

“We have passed the Political Parties Amendment Bill, 2021 and effectively given Azimio the rope they wanted to hang themselves (with). Let no one come back crying to us after the April nominations,” he said.

IEBC chief Wafula Chebukati had argued to the Senate that giving more powers to the registrar of parties infringes the electoral agency’s role.

“The Registrar lacks the constitutional authority to certify any party list as this is tantamount to the verification of the list by the IEBC as guided by Article 90 of the Constitution,” the IEBC said.

Mr Chebukati had also argued that parties should have a free hand to determine how to conduct primaries, in line with their rules.

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