MPs back proposals to change law on assembly nominations

Jeremiah Kioni

Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni during an interview at Jubilee Party headquarters in Nairobi in March, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

A Bill seeking to make it mandatory that nominations for special seats in county assemblies be a preserve of people who are registered voters in those counties inched closer to becoming law after the National Assembly voted to approve it.

The Elections (Amendment) Bill 2021, sponsored by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, seeks to amend section 34 (8) of the Elections Act to promote “local solutions to local issues” in counties.

This means that, for instance, if you are a registered voter in Nairobi, you cannot be nominated as an MCA in your home county as the Bill considers you an outsider.

However, this will only become a reality if the Senate adopts the Bill and the President signs it into law. Mr Kioni notes that the failure to have nomination slots in county assemblies filled by people registered as voters there presents legal loopholes that must be filled.

“A person shall not be nominated by a political party unless the person is, on the date of submission of the party list by the political party, a registered voter in any of the wards in the county in which the person is to be nominated,” the Bill reads.

The proposed law has been sent to the Senate for debate. Since the advent of devolution, 770 positions have been reserved as special seats for the nomination of Members of County Assembly (MCAs) across the 47 counties.

47 county assemblies

The slots add to the 1,450 MCAs elected directly by the people in the wards constituting single-member constituencies.

Currently, the legal regime managing the nomination of MCAs is such that anyone can be nominated in any of the 47 county assemblies provided that the sponsoring political party has indicated as such in the party list submitted to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Article 177 (1) (b) of the Constitution says a county assembly shall consist of the number of special seats necessary to ensure that no more than two-thirds of the membership in the assembly is of the same gender.

Yesterday, Mr Kioni was categorical that a person who is not a registered voter in a county, has no business serving in its assembly.

Mr Kioni, who chairs the Energy committee of the National Assembly, said counties have unique issues affecting them and nomination into their assemblies should not mirror what is done in the National Assembly and Senate.

“Nominating individuals other than the party’s registered members in a county demotivates the bona fide members in the county. It doesn’t give them the incentive to popularise the political party they belong to because they know that outsiders will be favoured,” Mr Kioni said.

The Elections Act provides that one qualifies for nomination to a county assembly if they are members of a political party on the date of submitting the party list.

Section 35 of the Elections Act provides that a political party shall submit its party list to the IEBC at least 45 days before the date of the General Election.

With the General Election slated for August 9, it means that IEBC must get party lists by June 25.

Marginalised group

The party list, the law says, shall however not contain names of candidates nominated for an election whether presidential, governorship, senatorial, single member constituency, county woman representative or MCA.

A party list submitted to the IEBC shall also not be open for amendment during the term of Parliament or the county assembly for which the candidates are elected. The allocation of seats is such that a party list shall alternate between male and female candidates in the priority in which they are listed.

The law further demands that the party list prioritises a person with disability, the youth and any other candidate representing a marginalised group.

Nomination is based on the strength of the number of elected members a political party has in the Senate, National Assembly or the 47 county assemblies.

Within 30 days after the declaration of election results, the IEBC is required to designate, from each qualifying list, the party representatives on the basis of proportional representation.