The Senate

The Senate building in Nairobi on May 24, 2020. 

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Proposed changes to parties Bill test Uhuru, Raila’s Senate influence

What you need to know:

  • Deputy President William Ruto and his allies are uncomfortable with the timing of the Bill.
  • DP's camp believe the Bill is tailored to promote the interests of ODM leader Raila Odinga.

At least four proposed amendments to the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill 2021 are under consideration in the Senate.

This emerged as the House began debating the proposed law that seeks to pave the way for coalition parties ahead of the August 9, 2022 General Election. 

Nominated senators Petronilla Were (ANC) and Sylvia Kasanga (Wiper), as well as Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei (Jubilee), are among the proponents of amendments that were being considered by the Senate’s Legal Department yesterday. 

Nominated senators Isaac Mwaura (Jubilee) and Abshiro Halake (Kanu) have also proposed amendments that are yet to be presented for fine-tuning and drafting by the House Legal Department. 

The Bill was passed by the National Assembly on January 5 amid chaotic scenes pitting the Kieleweke group – which is associated with President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga – against Deputy President William Ruto’s Tangatanga camp. 

Dr Ruto and his allies are uncomfortable with the timing of the Bill, which they believe is tailored to promote the interests of Mr Odinga in his quest to succeed President Kenyatta later this year. 

The Bill was taken to the Senate for concurrence, in line with the Constitution, where it underwent the first reading during a special sitting yesterday. 

Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka directed that the Justice and Human Rights Committee should consider the Bill and table a report in the House. 

The Bill will now undergo mandatory public participation as provided for in the law before the committee tables its report in the House to guide members during debate. 

Senators allied to the Kieleweke faction are apprehensive that the amendments could be part of a filibuster tactic to delay the formation of Azimio coalition party, on whose ticket Mr Odinga will presumably seek to succeed President Kenyatta. 

The version passed in the National Assembly requires that coalition parties be established at least 120 days before a general election. 

Ms Were and Ms Kasanga want the period that one must have been associated with a political party before contesting an election reduced from the current six months to three months. 

They argue that the current provision is unrealistic and seems to discriminate against civil servants, who are required to resign from public service six months before a general election. 

“When the law does not seem to work for the people, you amend it. I can tell you for a fact that most cases filed with the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal immediately after nominations are about when one started being associated with their parties,” Ms Were, who participated in the drafting of the principal law, said. 

“I am proposing these amendments as a practitioner. No one has sent me to do them,” she adds. 

A provision in the Elections Act of 2011 requiring civil servants to resign six months to a general election was quashed by High Court Judge Marete Njagi, who directed Parliament to regularise it. 

The civil society was of the view that one could resign after presenting their nomination papers to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which works out to at least three months to a general election. 

The IEBC, however, appealed against Justice Marete’s ruling and the Court of Appeal is yet to make a determination, more than four years down the line. 

Last year, High Court Judge Anthony Mrima ruled that civil servants must resign at least six months before a general election. 

Civil servants wishing to run for elective seats are unsure what would happen if the Court of Appeal overturns Justice Marete’s judgment and maintains that one should have been associated with a political party for at least six months before a general election? 

Timing of the Bill

The nominated senator also wants the proposed new clause 38A in the Bill deleted. 

The clause requires parties to file with the IEBC the names of delegates expected to participate in the nomination of candidates. 

“This proposal may lead to intimidation, harassment and bribery, among others, by candidates in an election. I want this clause deleted,” she says. 

Mr Mwaura and Mr Cherargei, who are allies of the Deputy President, are opposed to the Bill on the basis of its timing. 

Mr Mwaura wants members being disciplined by their political parties to retain their seats until all their appeal avenues are exhausted. 

The nominated senator once lost his seat but was saved by the courts. He has also questioned the proposal to have the Registrar of Political Parties (RPP) involved in the training of party agents.

“We are going for an overkill because the RPP, being an executive appointee, can misuse their powers to promote the interests of their masters. I will be moving an amendment to overturn this proposal,” said Mr Mwaura. 

Mr Cherargei, a one-time ally of Kanu chairman and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, wants clause nine and the proposed new clauses 38C and 38D deleted from the Bill. 

Clause 38C proposes that only registered members of a party should participate in its nominations. 

Clause 38D seeks to ensure that the register of members used in party nominations is accessible to the registered members of the party. 

Clause nine spells out when a member of a political party is deemed to have resigned from a party. 

He also wants the definition of a political party, the timeline for a party to get into a coalition with another and the role of the RPP reworked. 

Ugly scenes

Senators James Orengo (Siaya), Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma) and Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira) gave assurances that the ugly scenes witnessed in the National Assembly would not be seen in the Senate. 

“The courts have put a high premium on the question of public participation. This Bill will be debated robustly, comprehensively and thoroughly,” said Mr Orengo. 

“As for the decision at the end, that is left to the House sitting in plenary. There should be no doubt about that,” he added. 

Mr Wetang’ula said the work of Parliament is to legislate for the country and not for “ourselves.” 

“There is no time you have ever wished to come to this House with a helmet. What happened in the other House made us chill. We are not in a rush and there is no truncating the process of passing this Bill,” said Mr Wetang’ula. 

“Public participation must be real. Members will debate freely because this is a house of reason. The members must give the country a law that is proper,” he added. 

In the event the Senate considers the Bill with amendments, the originating House - the National Assembly – will be required to adopt the Senate version of the Bill without or with amendments. 

If it disagrees with the version as amended by the Senate, the two Houses will be required to form a mediation committee of equal number of members from each House. 

The mediation committee would have 30 days to generate a mediated version of the Bill. 

If the committee fails to agree on the mediated version, the Bill stands lost.  

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