President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua are plotting to secure an absolute majority in the National Assembly, guaranteeing an easy time passing key legislations, including those on changing the constitution.
A majority in Parliament is important for a party – or a coalition of parties – in power as it gives the President an easy time implementing policies and programmes.
A two-thirds majority gives the Head of State and his allies powers to approve or reject proposals with constitutional changes, as well as approving or rejecting a referendum.
The importance of an absolute majority was demonstrated in the previous administration of President Kenyatta which pushed through both Houses of Parliament a Bill to amend the Constitution to expand the executive under the Building Bridges Initiate (BBI). The effort was only derailed by the Supreme Court which declared the Bill unconstitutional.
With an absolute majority, the ruling coalition, if opposed to a plan to revive the BBI, which Dr Ruto resisted as Deputy President, would block it.
Currently, President Ruto has 179 MPs against Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition’s 157.
But having won over 10 of the 12 independent MPs, and the coming alive of an exit clause in the Raila Odinga-led Azimio, key Kenya Kwanza strategists now see the possibility of bridging the 44-member gap to a two-thirds (233 of the 349 MPs) majority.
And Mr Gachagua thinks it will happen sooner than expected.
“We have given ourselves a December 31 deadline, when we want to have brought back all those people that were lost in Azimio; that had been forced in there,” said Mr Gachagua on Sunday.
Kenya Kwanza has a keen focus on former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee, whose MPs have already expressed interest to join President Ruto’s camp.
Jubilee has a total of 28 MPs, most of them from outside Mt Kenya.
Sources within President Ruto’s camp have intimated to the Nation that during last week’s Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group meeting, the Head of State asked his allies to capitalise on the push and pull in Azimio to have as many elected leaders as possible to join Kenya Kwanza.
“The President told us that he wants to get the Jubilee MPs to join us in Kenya Kwanza so that we have a big team that will help us in achieving our legislative goals,” a first-term MP from the Rift Valley told the Nation.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, an ally of the Head of State, yesterday confirmed that the alliance is looking for a majority in Parliament for the sake of passing their legislative agenda to ease service delivery.
According to Mr Barasa, the strategy is not to get the MPs to defect – which might complicate their political standing with the requirement for a by-election for changing their party mid-term – but to win their support, and ensure a ready pool of numbers on the floor of the House.
“Yes, we are looking for an absolute majority because there are many Bills, amendments and motions on the way to the floor of the House. These Bills are important for policy actualisation of our Kenya Kwanza plan,” said Mr Barasa.
President Ruto’s plan to get an absolute majority is coming just two weeks after the Azimio exit clause became active, paving the way for any of the coalition partners to formally leave.
According to Azimio’s coalition agreement, a partner party intending to exit can do so at least three months after the August 9 General Election. The three-month window lapsed on November 9.
“No one has defected yet, but I have heard Jubilee MPs and others in Azimio complaining about the conmanship and deceit of their partners and threatening to divorce the coalition.
“There has not been a single complaint from Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group of not keeping its word or promise to anyone, party or region. So, if people want to defect to Kenya Kwanza because it is the best there is, they are welcome,” said Belgut MP Nelson Koech.
Nyaribari Chache MP Zaheer Jhanda added: “The President has numbers in Parliament, which is why we are the majority and the ruling coalition. The President has made it clear that the Azimio coalition should play its role as the official opposition to keep the government in check, correct us and basically oversight us who are in government.”
Last week, Deputy Majority Leader Owen Baya told the Nation that they are reaching out to anyone who is ready to push the ruling coalition’s agenda in Parliament.
He said those in Azimio who are unhappy with the manner in which they are being handled are welcome to Kenya Kwanza to push legislation that will improve the lives of Kenyans.
“We have been waiting for the expiry of the political parties’ post-election coalition deadline to start serious talks on getting more parties into Kenya Kwanza,” said the Kilifi North MP.
However, Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni downplayed the scheme by Kenya Kwanza, warning Jubilee MPs against being lured through development projects.
He also said the supposed disorganisation in Azimio, which President Ruto wants to bank on, does not exist, insisting that some issues that have arisen are being sorted out internally.
“Azimio is not disorganised. We are well-organised and we handle our differences internally. As Jubilee Party, we have agreed with our elected leaders that development in their constituencies is their right, hence someone should not dangle that in front of them so as to join Kenya Kwanza,” said Mr Kioni.
He added: “If those in government are confident that they want to work for Kenyans, why are they concerned with killing the opposition?”
Nothing to offer
National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said the scheme to lure MPs will not work because President Ruto’s camp has nothing to offer Azimio lawmakers into switching to the government side in Parliament.
With those who joined Kenya Kwanza immediately after the elections yet to benefit from the government, the Ugunja MP said that it would be a Herculean task for President Ruto to convince more leaders from Azimio to join his team.
“It does not worry us at all. What will they offer them in return? They have nothing more to offer. Their own MPs in Kenya Kwanza and those who joined them immediately after elections are already complaining about unfulfilled promises,” said Mr Wandayi.
He added: “The sooner MPs realise that they’re already part of government by virtue of belonging to the Legislature, the better. Moreover, on our side, we do not really require absolute numbers to be able to play our oversight role. We simply need commitment and determination. So, regardless of how many more they will attempt to poach from our ranks, the few of us who will eventually remain shall keep the fire burning. There will be no respite.”
It has emerged that some Azimio lawmakers are supporting President Ruto’s agenda in Parliament silently since they were in Kenya Kwanza before joining Mr Odinga’s team so as to get elected.
Mr Kioni further observed that it seems President Ruto has already captured Parliament, already making it difficult for the opposition to play its oversight role. He said that Kenyans will suffer because they will get a raw deal from their leaders.
“Having seen what is happening in Parliament, it is clear that Kenyans are on their own. It is likely that our MPs are for the highest bidder. It is no longer about party affiliation. You cannot rule out the aspect of money,” said Mr Kioni.
According to Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi, the plan by President Ruto will not yield any fruit. He advised Kenya Kwanza to focus on delivering on their campaign pledges rather than engaging in sideshows.
“Political poaching is an archaic strategy that does not work in the long-term. Kanu did it but a few years later, they lost political power and have never recovered. Kenya Kwanza needs to be focusing a lot on delivering its promises and do less politics,” said Mr Osotsi.