A fresh showdown is looming between Mr Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party and President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance after a mid-night ultimatum for the government side to withdraw the Finance Bill, 2023, among other concerns, lapsed yesterday.
Yesterday, the Opposition coalition issued new demands to the government to withdraw the controversial Bill and also agree to by-elections for all Azimio MPs who have decamped to their side or have the bi-partisan talks remain in suspension.
Speaking to journalists after an Azimio Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting chaired by Mr Odinga at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation in Nairobi yesterday, National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said Kenya Kwanza was yet to conclusively address their four concerns.
The coalition had requested preliminary actions to lower the cost of living, preservation of electoral agency’s servers, suspension of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) selection panel and a cessation of Kenya Kwanza invasion of Azimio affiliate parties including former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party.
Azimio threatened to call off the bi-partisan talks should Kenya Kwanza fail to address the issues. Yesterday, the Opposition outfit made fresh demands for the withdrawal of the controversial Finance Bill, 2023, terming it anti-people.
“It is also our position that the Finance Bill as presently crafted must be withdrawn and replaced by a Bill that appreciates the suffering the people of Kenya are going through.”
“Indeed, Azimio MPs have resolved to sign a public pledge to oppose the Bill, awaiting its withdrawal,” read the coalition’s statement by Mr Wandayi.
Azimio noted that other than Kenya Kwanza committing not to interfere in the affairs of other parties, the ruling alliance must agree that all Jubilee MPs who have defected will have to face the electorate in by-elections, in line with the Constitution.
“Until all these are agreed on, the joint by-partisan talks remain suspended. Kenya Kwanza has up to midnight today to comply,” the statement read. Azimio said its bi-partisan team had briefed the PG on Kenya Kwanza’s offers, but insisted they cannot warrant a return to the negotiating table.
“Kenya Kwanza has offered that the joint co-chairs should write to the IEBC Selection Panel requesting them to halt the process for about 21-30 days and to preserve the presidential election servers.”
“It has also expressed willingness to co-author a letter to the IEBC reminding them of their legal obligation to preserve the presidential election servers and the data contained therein.”
Azimio revealed that Kenya Kwanza has equally asked that the co-chairpersons meet today to discuss and write the required letters so that the joint bipartisan talks can continue.
“With regard to interference in Jubilee, Kenya Kwanza has indicated a willingness to commit in writing to respect the ruling of the Political Parties Tribunal confirming the Jubilee Party leadership.”
“They have no offers on lowering the cost of living because they are married to the Finance Bill, and we have a plan for the Bill,” Azimio said.
On the Finance Bill, Azimio members said that the millions of Kenyans struggling with the high cost of unga, sugar, fuel, school fees, and electricity, do not believe this Bill is from a government working for them.
“They do not believe anyone living in this country can come up with the raft of taxes contained in the Finance Bill, 2023. Our PG has also taken an extremely dim view of the arrogance with which the Kenya Kwanza administration wants to take billions out of the pockets of some of the poorest people in this country while expecting them to cheer.”
Mr Wandayi said the coalition’s position is that “the budget proposals offer completely no support for working people and upcoming businesses.”
“We oppose the burden being imposed on working people through reckless measures like house levy, income tax and taxes on per diem. We oppose increased taxes on start-ups and small businesses. We oppose increasing taxes on fuel which will raise the cost of the product by at least Sh10.”
“We reject this backward march. We reject the Finance Bill in total. We reject excess taxation to finance wasteful expenditure,” the Azimio statement read.
The coalition also settled on Embakasi West MP Mark Mwenje to be its deputy minority whip in the National Assembly, replacing nominated MP Sabina Chege, who has shifted allegiance to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.
“We recognise Hon Mwenje as a committed, consistent, energetic and youthful fighter who has shown the will to stand up for the people and the party. We have no doubt that he will prove equal to the task,” the coalition stated.