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From left: President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. 

| Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Ruto MPs take on Uhuru-Raila camp over coalition party Bill

Deputy President William Ruto’s allies want to block changes to the law designed to facilitate a coalition political party, setting up a contest with President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s camp.

Ruto MPs take on Uhuru-Raila camp over coalition party Bill

Today, debate opens in the National Assembly on a Bill that seeks to allow formation of a coalition party — thought to be Azimio la Umoja — on whose ticket Mr Odinga is expected to vie for the presidency.

But Ruto allies have proposed further changes to the Political Parties (Amendments) Bill, 2021, intended to scuttle efforts to legislate a coalition party, and also shield them from sanctions for campaigning for the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), which the DP plans to use to contest the presidency.

The contest that will certainly be decided through a vote, will once again settle the long running controversy: which of the two political factions has the numbers in Parliament.

Yesterday, House leaders allied to the President dared their rivals to demonstrate their numerical strength given the DP has often claimed his side has 130 MPs.

However, the last time the factions faced off in the House, the DP’s side was unable to block a Bill to amend the Constitution, and the Building Bridges Initiative campaign fronted by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga was only halted by the courts.

Unlike the constitutional amendment Bill that requires a two-thirds threshold to pass, the House only needs 50 MPs as the quorum to consider the Bill.

Yesterday, the Nation learnt eight members had filed their amendments to the Bill with the Clerk’s office by 5pm.

These are MPs George Murugara, Gathoni Wamuchomba, Didmus Barasa, Owen Baya, Silvanus Osoro and Caleb Kositany, all allied to the DP’s camp.

However, pro-handshake MPs Godfrey Osotsi and Shakeel Shabbir have also lined their own amendments.

Yesterday, former National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale told the Nation he had requested Mr Murugara to file amendments on his behalf as he won’t attend the two-day special sitting. The Garissa Township MP said he will be hosting the DP, who tours the region from today.

The proposed amendments by Mr Duale and Mr Barasa aim to delete Clause 2 (a) and (c) of the Bill, whose effect is to block formation of a coalition party.

A selfish agenda

Both clauses are seeking to amend the definition of a political party in the current law so as to recognise a coalition party.

“This clause seeks to lay a foundation for the formation of coalitions for the 2022 elections and hence I dare say is for a selfish agenda by those looking to form coalitions,” Mr Duale said.

Mr Barasa questioned the motive for the hurried amendments.

“This is quite unfortunate as this House should never be used by any person to foster personal and selfish agenda. The proposed amendments are retrogressive and made out of emotions by the proponents,” Mr Barasa said.

In his amendments, Mr Duale also wants to delete clause 2 (a) of the Bill, which seeks to broaden the definition of a political party to include associations of citizens with ideology or programmes that influence policy or nominate candidates to contest elections.

“Clause 2 adopts a broad definition of a political party which technically means that even a non-Ggvernmental organisation or a Public Benefit Organisations (PBO) can qualify to be a political party provided they have an identifiable ideology or programme,” Mr Duale argued.

The DP’s allies are also targeting clause 5 of the Bill, which seeks to amend section 6 of the Political Parties Act to provide that an application for provisional registration shall be accompanied by a statement on the ideology of the proposed political party.

The proposed change defines a statement of ideology as a statement setting out ‘the doctrine, ethical ideals, and principles of the party.’

It’s seen as targeting UDA, which is propagating the bottom-up economic model and hustler movement campaign that critics claim is inciting a class war.

Party registration

If the Bill is passed, parties will be required to deposit their statements of ideology at the Registrar of Political Parties.

Also targeted by the DP’s camp is clause 7 (e) of the Bill, which provides additional grounds to deny a party registration, including if the slogan of a political party is “against public interest.”

The DP’s allies argue, the term public interest has not been clearly defined in the proposed changes, hence the broad scope can be abused pointing to the discomfort by powerful figures with UDA’s hustler nation campaign.

Jubilee MPs, who are openly associating with UDA, also want to exploit a proposed change to delete a current provision in law that will be used to sanction them. They want to delete clause 10 of the Bill, which provides that “a person who, while being a member of a political party shall be deemed to have resigned from that party if that person promotes the ideology, interests or policies of another political party.”

They argue that the move is aimed at preventing them from popularising ideologies of UDA while still members of Jubilee.

Yesterday, National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya said they are ready for a duel with the Tangatanga MPs.

“We’ll meet on the floor of the House,” he told the Nation.

Minority Leader John Mbadi also dared the DP’s camp to a showdown. “There is nothing offensive in that Bill and our members have instructions to support it,” Mr Mbadi added.

Additional reporting by Mercy Simiyu

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