It is Marende or Wetang’ula for National Assembly Speaker

Kenneth Marende and Moses Wetangu’ula

Former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende (left) and Bungoma Senator-elect Moses Wetangu’ula.

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya has settled on Kenneth Marende to face off with Bungoma Senator-elect Moses Wetangu’ula in the race for National Assembly speaker.

The coalition was yesterday planning to write to all its MPs-elect on the decision to back the former National Assembly speaker when the House convenes next week for its first sitting.

Secretary General Junet Mohamed told Sunday Nation that the decision was arrived at after wide consultations by coalition partners.

Mr Marende was initially being fronted for the Senate speaker with Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s name being mentioned as a possible candidate for the National Assembly seat.

“Azimio coalition has decided to front Marende as our candidate for the National Assembly speaker. We have decided to go for someone who has been tried and tested, someone who understands the operations of Parliament,” said Mr Mohamed.

“We are going to formally communicate this to all our members by Monday. All the coalition partners including Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka are in agreement.”

In the agreed line-up, Wiper will produce a candidate to run for National Assembly deputy speaker, while the Senate speaker candidate will come from the Coast or the pastoralist community.

Kenya Kwanza Alliance of President-elect William Ruto has settled on Mr Wetang’ula for the National Assembly and immediate former Kilifi governor Amason Kingi for the Senate.

By fronting Mr Marende, Azimio seeks to exploit his past record of a unifying figure in the face of major political division sparked by the disputed 2007 General Election, as well as to appeal to MPs from the Western region where Mr Wetang’ula also hails from.

They are also seeking to exploit the delicate constitutional provision that requires Mr Wetang’ula to first resign as a senator before formally applying to run for the seat.

The provision has put Mr Wetang’ula in a delicate position as he would be making a political gamble that could see him resign without the surety of winning the speaker’s race as neither camp has absolute numbers to guarantee a win.

A notice by acting National Assembly Clerk Serah Kioko says those seeking to participate in the election will have to return their applications at least 48 hours to the election.

“Please, also note that candidates shall be required to submit a letter from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission evidencing the fact that the candidate is qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament under Article 99 of the Constitution and that the candidate is not such a member, in the case of the position of the speaker,” states the notice.

This requirement places Mr Wetang’ula on the horns of a dilemma as he is required to resign and obtain a letter from the IEBC ascertaining that he is not a Member of Parliament before he can apply to contest.

“Politics is like a game of chess; you wait for your opponents to place their cards on the table before you show yours. With Mr Marende as our candidate, we are sure the next speaker of the National Assembly will be from Azimio,” said Mr Mohamed in reference to the dilemma facing Mr Wetang’ula.

Azimio has planned its Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting latest Wednesday ahead of a possible first sitting of the 13th Parliament on Thursday.

The 30-day period within which President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to convene Parliament elapses on September 8, implying the two Houses have to sit Tuesday, Wednesday or latest Thursday.

Legally, Azimio has a slim majority of 167-158 over Kenya Kwanza. But politically, Kenya Kwanza has more numbers after Dr Ruto wooed some Azimio members and independents.

United Democratic Alliance (UDA) will take up six out of the 12 nomination slots, ODM four, while Jubilee and Wiper will take one each. This means six each for Kenya Kwanza and Azimio, placing the numbers at 173 for Azimio and 164 for Kenya Kwanza.

Mr Mohamed said the issue of which coalition forms majority side has since been settled as it is clearly Azimio. At least 12 MPs-elect have crossed over to Dr Ruto, handing his alliance advantage in the election of speaker.

They were elected on Mr Kingi’s Pamoja African Alliance, ex-Machakos governor Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap, Mandera Senator-elect Ali Roba’s United Democratic Movement, and Ugenya MP Dave Ochieng’s Movement for Democratic Growth.

Mr Marende yesterday expressed confidence of winning should the coalition present a united front. He said he had been informed of the decision to have him run for the assembly seat.

“If you ask me my level of confidence in terms of competency and capacity to serve, I am 100 per cent. I have served in the office before and the jury is out there on my performance,” he said.

“Azimio has numbers to win the seat if they hold together. The moment you are at 175 out of 349 members, it is game shot. Those defecting are engaging in an illegality that I don’t subscribe to.”

Vihiga Senator-elect Godfrey Osotsi said Mr Marende will appeal beyond party affiliations because of his “impeccable record on integrity and deliberate efforts to unite warring factions”.

At the same time, various MPs-elect within Azimio have stepped up their quest for House leadership positions. ODM chairman John Mbadi and Ugunja MP-elect Opiyo Wandayi are the front-runners for the majority leader post.

Mr Mbadi told Sunday Nation that he is going for nothing but the majority leader position in the National Assembly.

“I served as minority leader in the 12th Parliament where I perfectly executed all the duties given by my party leader Raila Odinga, at no one time did I fail. Therefore, I can only scale higher in the 13th Parliament as the majority leader.”

Mr Wandayi, on other hand, is banking on his performance as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in the 12th Parliament. The Ugunja lawmaker will be serving his third term and believes he has come of age politically and gained enough experience.

“For now, we are waiting for the outcome of the court, other discussions will just take their own course after that.”