Why political parties could soon lose EALA roles

Eala MPs Suleiman Shabal, Kanini Kega, Winnie Odinga and Kennedy Musyoka.

Azimio la Umoja newly elected Eala MPs Suleiman Shabal, Kanini Kega, Winnie Odinga and Kennedy Musyoka.

Photo credit: Pool

Political parties could soon be edged out in the submission of lists of their preferred candidates to be elected to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).

A report by the parliamentary select committee recently formed to oversee the election of Kenya’s representatives to the Arusha-based assembly, has called for amendments to the EALA rules and procedures to give it enhanced roles in the election of members.

The committee wants its role to include inviting applications, vetting applicants, and presenting the final list of candidates to Parliament for voting and list of winners to EALA.

“The Election of Members of the Assembly, 2017, should be amended to enhance the role of the joint select committee, commencing with the invitation of applications to the submission of names to the East African Legislative Assembly,” reads the report.

Currently, the committee’s major functions include suggesting appropriate timelines for purposes of notifications, nominations and election of EALA, considering nominees, overseeing the election and reporting to both Houses of Parliament within stipulated timelines.

Upon election, winners are commissioned by the President before leaving for Arusha to start their sessions. Article 50 of the EALA treaty requires that representatives to the assembly are a face of various political parties represented in Parliament, various shades of opinion, gender and other special interest groups in the partner states.

In the election held in Kenya last November, Kenya Kwanza coalition, led by President William Ruto, bagged five slots, while Azimio la Umoja coalition party got four—totalling nine for Kenya.

Those elected included Kennedy Kalonzo, Winnie Odinga, Hassan Omar, David Sankok, Zipporah Kering and Falhadha Dekow. The others were Kieni MP Kanini Kega, Suleiman Shahbal and Godfrey Mwangi Maina.

The committee has also called for a review of the campaign method by nominees seeking to represent Kenya in EALA. It says the current campaign method favours former MPs and those familiar with the precincts of Parliament to the disadvantage of other qualified candidates.

Rule 14 of the EALA Elections, 2017, provides for campaigns by nominees who approach and seek the support of other MPs who hold the ultimate vote in the floor of the House. This rule gives former MPs undue advantage over other candidates who may not be well known within the corridors of Parliament but have requisite skills to represent Kenya in the regional assembly.

Due to this reason, the committee, which was co-chaired by Makueni senator Dan Maanzo and Kipipiri MP Wanjiku Muhia in the recent election of Kenya’s representatives, seeks to provide a level playing ground.

“Rule 14 on the campaigns be amended to include a framework that ensures all nominees, whether they are former Members of Parliament or not, have an equal opportunity to campaign,” it recommends, without specifics on how campaigns should be conducted.