William Ruto
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Why President Ruto will find it harder to pass bills after Finance Bill flop

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President William Ruto signs the Appropriations Bill into law at State House, Nairobi on June 28, 2024.

Photo credit: PCS

If the deluge of apologies by MPs who voted for the Finance Bill, 2024 is anything to go by, President William Ruto should be worried over consideration of government-sponsored Bills in the National Assembly.

While the apologies by ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition lawmakers might not translate to shifting to the opposition, it means they will cast votes on government-backed bills not because of directives from their parties and the Executive but what their constituents say.

Gripped by fear after some colleagues suffered severely when their properties were razed and houses severely damaged, the lawmakers are likely to weigh options before voting for government-sponsored bills.

This may put President Ruto in an awkward position, especially on state programmes that would require majority support in the House.

Despite the MPs passing the much-maligned bill, President Ruto declined to assent to it and has since returned it to the National Assembly, calling for deletion of all the clauses. That followed sustained protests from many Kenyans, especially young adults.

The lawmakers who publicly defended the bill and voted for it now have a political mountain to climb as they need to tell Kenyans why they went against their wishes.

Those who have apologised for voting for the Finance Bill, 2024 include Mr David Gikaria (Nakuru Town East), Mr John Kiarie (Dagoretti South), Mr Joseph Namuar (Turkana Central), Mr Geoffrey Wandetu (Tetu), Ms Sarah Korere (Laikipia North), Mr Gideon Kimaiyo (Keiyo South) and Matungu’s Oscar Nabulindo.

While apologising, the lawmakers said they listened to their party instead of what people were saying, “a mistake that will never recur”.

Said Mr Gikaria: “I am sorry. Please forgive me for not listening to you in rejecting the Finance Bill, 2024.”

“I apologise to all Keiyo South people for voting ‘Yes’ to the Finance Bill. Going into the future, I promise to listen more to sauti ya mwananchi (voice of the ordinary person,” Mr Kimaiyo said last week.

Ms Korere explained to Laikipia North residents on her facebook page account that she took the decision to cushion them against getting marginalised.

“As for my constituents, please accept my profound apologies for voting against your expectations on the Finance Bill, 2024. I voted in good faith after careful scrutiny with amendments solely to cushion you from further marginalisation. Thank you for your continued support and accept my humble apologies,” the MP’s post reads.

National Assembly Majority Leader and Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah, his deputy Owen Baya (Kilifi North) and Majority Whip Silvanus Osoro (South Mugirango) did not respond to our calls and text messages on the issue.

Last week, Mr Osoro posted on his X account that he has no apologies for voting for the bill, vowing to take the same decision if asked to.

“I would still vote ‘Yes’ if the Finance Bill came today. Voting ‘No’ for me was not an option despite the noise and the insults. Those waiting for my apology will be waiting for a long time,” he said.

Appearing on Citizen TV on Thursday morning, Belgut MP Nelson Koech said he has no apology to make over the decision he made, adding that Kenyans would soon begin feeling the effects of the withdrawal of the bill.

He said Kenyans would thank those who voted for it.

“I stand by my vote. Why would I apologise? The Finance Bill, 2024 is a huge document and we removed all the areas that Kenyans did not want,” the Belgut lawmaker said.

Despite the backlash, insults and roughing up of some of the lawmakers who voted for the bill, President Ruto came to their defence, calling them the true heroes of Kenya.

“Those are the people who saw the opportunity to unchain our country from debt,” President Ruto said during the roundtable interview at State House on Sunday.

One hundred and ninety five MPs voted for the bill while 106 rejected it on the same day that protesters invaded Parliament to express their displeasure over the decision that had been taken by their representatives.

Having a majority of MPs in the National Assembly and Senate gives an incumbent president the legroom to implement his policies and programmes easily.

Key significant committees

The battle to control Parliament has always been the goal for any president as anything passed by lawmakers is deemed to be legitimate as they are the representatives of the people.

The control of Parliament means the President and his team are the majority in the House.

This comes with the benefit of chairing key significant committees like Budget and Appropriations, Security and National Administration, Finance and National Planning and Defence and Foreign Relations.

Should the protests led by Gen Z be sustained, President Ruto and his administration would have to do extensive public participation in the remaining two Finance Bills in his first term in order not to put the MPs at loggerheads with constituents.

According to Kitutu Masaba MP Clive Gisairo, President Ruto should be alarmed by the recent turn of events.

“Ruto should be worried. It is not going to be what he says but what the people say,” Mr Gisairo said.

Kitui Rural MP David Mwalika said the events in the last two weeks, especially when protesters literally invaded and occupied Parliament, might help emancipate the National Assembly and Senate from the chains of the Executive.

He added that Parliament needs to be independent in order to play its oversight role effectively.

“There is a need for the lawmakers to read the mood of the people and not to listen to anybody else. It is obvious that MPs were coerced to vote for the Finance Bill, 2024” Mr Mwalika said.

Moi University lecturer Masibo Lumala says the lesson drawn from the events is that lawmakers will first listen to the people that elected them before taking a decision.

“If 85 per cent of the people who elected you are saying they don’t support the bill and you end up voting for it, who are you representing? State House or your constituents?” Prof Lumala asked.