Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) with ODM leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative report in Nairobi on November 27, 2019.

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Why Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga are in a rush to pass coalition law

Coalition talks between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga are reportedly at an advanced stage, with a February deadline to unveil the structure for the alliance informing the rush to pass the parties bill.

The Daily Nation has been informed that the two leaders are working on the structure of the coalition as they push their troops in Parliament to ensure the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021, is passed so that the President signs it into law by the end of next month.

The bill proposes to change the Political Parties Act to allow the registration of a coalition outfit.

It defines a coalition political party as an alliance that is registered by the registrar as a political party.

If the bill becomes law and Azimio La Umoja becomes the coalition party, for instance, the presidential candidate and the running mate will be on the ballot under the outfit and its symbol as opposed to the present situation.

In the 2017 elections, Mr Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka campaigned under the National Super Alliance (Nasa) but the joint presidential ticket was under ODM and the orange symbol on the ballot paper.

The same was the case in 2013 when they were the candidates for the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy.

In the same year, Mr Kenyatta and Mr William Ruto were on the ballot under The National Alliance (TNA) party and symbol though Ruto was in the United Republican Party that struck a coalition deal with TNA.

It also means though the Azimio coalition will zone the country to ensure regions are reserved for the dominant affiliate party, the winner of the nominations for governor, MP, senator and ward representative can be fielded under the Azimio ticket on the ballot paper.

Keen to ensure this arrangement has the necessary legal backing, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga want the bill to amend the Act passed by the Senate and National Assembly urgently.

This is why National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya has written to the Speaker calling for special sittings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to conclude the bill that was frustrated by the Dr Ruto’s camp on Wednesday night.

“We will continue engaging on the floor of the House. We will not be distracted by the antics of the other camp. Our focus is giving Kenyans a law that will improve the hygiene of political parties,” Mr Kimunya said.

ODM chairman John Mbadi, who will miss next week’s special session after he was suspended for five sittings during the chaotic proceedings on Wednesday, said the new coalition structure and nomination method would be firmed up by mid-February.

 “Our party is in talks to build a broader coalition hopefully by mid-February and latest end of February. That is why we need this law in place by the end of January,” Mr Mbadi told the Daily Nation.

A senior ODM official yesterday said Mr Odinga is fully in charge of the talks with the President.

“It is only Raila who knows the details of the talks. I am aware of grand plans to finish everything by the end of February,” the source said.

Mr Mbadi said there is need to have a clear roadmap by February to avoid doing things hurriedly “like what happened during the Nasa talks”.

Among the details on the coalition is how affiliate parties would field candidates for elective seats.

“We need to have a clear structure by the time of going to the primaries in April,” Mr Mbadi said.

The DP’ allies are strategising on how to counter the pro-bill team.

After losing in nearly all votes on contested amendments to the bill, Dr Ruto’s side is said to be courting members of other parties, especially those of Amani National Congress (ANC).

The DP, who is popularising his United Democratic Alliance, is opposed to the bill, saying the section that proposes to shorten the time for coalition-making is designed to coerce One Kenya Alliance (OKA) leaders to expose their political strategy by February.

The law currently provides that a pre-election coalition deal must be deposited to the Registrar of Political Parties three months to the General Election.

Proponents of the bill have compromised on four months to win back lawmakers allied to ANC and Ford Kenya.

Dr Ruto’s team says is opposed to provisions that grant the Registrar of Political Parties more powers on party registration, certification of ideologies and slogan as well as greater oversight on primaries.

The UDA says these powers are prone to abuse by the State.

Keiyo South MP, Daniel Rono, said the DP’s team would talk to ANC members to support the bill “that is obviously meant to benefit Raila”.

“We will talk to members of other political parties, especially ANC, as they are singing a song that does not belong to them. We will seek legal redress if we fail in Parliament,” Mr Rono said.

“The proponents of the changes should have built consensus instead of arrogantly bulldozing the bill.”

Kimilili MP, Didmus Barasa, said Dr Ruto’s camp used the Wednesday proceedings to gauge its strength in the House.

“Some of our members were not around on Wednesday but we have recalled them,” Mr Barasa said.

“It is obvious ODM is using this bill to rebrand to Azimio coalition. That is not a danger to us but to former Nasa parties which are being swallowed by ODM.”

Garissa Township MP and former National Assembly Majority Leader, Aden Duale, said about eight of MPs loyal to the DP are out of the country but would be around for the special sittings.

“We have the numbers. We are about 149 in the National Assembly and 23 in the Senate,” he said.

Jubilee Parliamentary Group Secretary Adan Keynan said the patience and dedication witnessed on Wednesday night showed how committed lawmakers are.

“Next week will be the climax of a deserved victory for Kenyans who have persevered chaos, threats and dirty delay tactics to block efforts to sanitise our politics, “ Mr Keynan said.

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