President William Ruto has been cruising to easy, major victories in the National Assembly, with little or no challenge from the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, a departure from the team’s earlier promise to push back against the Head of State’s policies and appointments they do not agree with.
One of the major victories President Ruto has scored is getting the approval for Cabinet secretaries to appear on the floor of the House to answer questions directly from members.
Azimio had insisted that such a plan required a referendum and not just an amendment to the Standing Orders. But on the day of the decision last week, majority of Azimio MPs were not in the House, having attended a press conference by Mr Odinga, giving Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance a smooth sailing.
Six months into the life of the 13th Parliament, President Ruto has been registering one win after another.
It started with the approval of his Cabinet and principal secretaries—even after Azimio wrote a minority report questioning some of the appointments and called for their rejection—with some members of the opposition siding with the government side to approve them.
Dr Ruto also scored big in the approval by the House of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Selection Panel that is now sitting to pick the chairman and six electoral commissioners.
Mr Odinga has listed this as one of the major contentious issues, pushing him to the streets and the “mother of all protests” tomorrow.
In December, a plot by the minority side to challenge the passage of a report by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) recommending the removal of four IEBC commissioners—and the formation of a tribunal to probe their conduct—crumbled as they were outwitted by the Kenya Kwanza side.
The report was brought on the last day when MPs were preparing to proceed for their long Christmas recess.
Azimio coalition proposed that the matter should be scheduled for business when the House resumes, questioning why Kenya Kwanza was in a hurry to pass the report.
But when the issue was subjected to a vote on whether debate of the report should be deferred to another day, only 32 Azimio lawmakers were in the House.
Even with that, only 19 voted, with 13 absconding.
On the other hand, 96 of Kenya Kwanza MPs voted for the motion, forcing their Azimio counterparts to walk out of the chambers.
The Azimio lawmakers then walked out, saying they could not be part of an illegality.
President Ruto has successfully managed to capitalise on divisions in Azimio to get more numbers on his side.
The President had then had a meeting with Jubilee MPs and a section of ODM legislators who have pledged to cooperate with him on ‘development’ issues, a move that has punctured the Azimio coalition.
Now, ODM chairman John Mbadi—a former minority leader and now a nominated MP—admits that the team is still disorganised as there is still no coordination, allowing President Ruto to have a field day in the House.
“Truth be told, we are weak and disorganised. We need to do things a bit better otherwise President Ruto will continue to have a field day. Look at the issue of Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) deputy governor, it was only the mover and seconder and the motion was passed,” Mr Mbadi said.
He added: “There was also lack of robust debate from our side on the supplementary budget, apart from a few of us who spoke, nothing else was done.”
The President has so far successfully managed to have his supplementary budget approved by the House, as well as the approval of CBK deputy governor Susan Koech and Solicitor-General Shadrack Mose.
National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa told the Sunday Nation the President’s success is because he has incredible plans “that even the minority can’t oppose”.
The Kikuyu MP (UDA) pointed out that the minority has also gone silent because most of the things being discussed at the House were done in the era of Raila and Uhuru Handshake and “hence they are conflicted”.
However, Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi termed the victories as pyrrhic victory achieved by artificial majority, saying it does not bother them since their game plan to counter President Ruto goes beyond Parliament.
“We have short, medium and long term strategies to deal with the current situation in the country. Parliament is just but one of the many theatres for executing our strategies. We have had similar situations in the past and we have always prevailed in the end,” Mr Wandayi said.
Deputy Majority Leader Owen Baya criticised the opposition for running away from their job of checking the government in Parliament and instead resorted to street protests.
“We welcome them back to Parliament to perform their duties. The President has allowed Parliament to do its duties without any form of interference. It’s the opposition that has abdicated its role,” Mr Baya said.
University of Nairobi don Samuel Mbutu said while President Ruto is using ‘mechanical strategy’ to have his way in Parliament, Mr Odinga has chosen the path of going directly to the masses with popular messages such as cost of living, which is resonating well with the people.
“Taking over Parliament by force is not sustainable. It is not a good strategy when it comes to nation-building. It has led many nations in the world to crumble. There is no way someone who has the following of close to half of Kenyans can be ignored. The only way out is dialogue,” Dr Mbutu said.
The situation is, however, different in the Senate where the likes of Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna, his Narok counterpart Ledama Ole Kina, Stewart Madzayo (Kilifi), Moses Kajwang’ (Homa Bay), Godfrey Osotsi (Vihiga), Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira) and Eddy Oketch (Migori) have so far had a successful pushback against the majority side.
The vocal senators last week paralysed the operations of the House, protesting the delay by Speaker Amason Kingi to effect leadership changes made by the Azimio coalition.
On Thursday, Mr Kingi gave a nod to the changes that saw Mr Kina named minority whip to replace Isiolo’s Fatuma Dullo, elected on a Jubilee ticket, but who has since cast her lot with President Ruto.