The Senate

The Senate building in Nairobi on May 24, 2020. 

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Senate bristling for fight over Political Parties Bill 

What you need to know:

  • Deputy President William Ruto’s camp is plotting to make amendments to the Bill.
  • Should any of the changes succeed, the Bill will be referred back to the National Assembly.

Rival political factions will face off again in the Senate during a special sitting today to consider a proposed law to facilitate registration of a coalition party.

The game of numbers will be at play as senators debate the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, which was approved by the National Assembly last week after protracted and chaotic proceedings.

Deputy President William Ruto’s camp is plotting to make amendments to the Bill, which will be resisted by allies of President Kenyatta and Orange Democratic movement (ODM0 leader Raila Odinga because changes would delay enactment of the Bill. 

Should any of the changes succeed, the Bill will be referred back to the National Assembly and, in case of a stalemate, a mediation committee with representatives from both Houses will be convened to hammer out a compromise within 30 days. It’s a situation proponents of the Bill, who want it enacted by the end of the month, are keen to avoid.

Being a matter that affects counties, a vote will be taken by the 47 delegations, which means that, for any amendment to pass, it must be supported by 24. Today, however, the Bill will only be formally introduced in the House and referred to the Justice and Legal Affairs committee chaired by Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni to conduct public participation ahead of debate.

The DP’s allies have already identified areas they want amended, including provisions granting sweeping powers to the Registrar of Political Parties in the conduct of party nominations. If the Bill becomes law, parties will be required to seek certified copies of their membership lists that are used for nominations.

The Bill grants the registrar powers to also certify party lists submitted to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

“A political party intending to submit a party list to the commission shall, at least 14 days before the submission to the commission, submit the party list to the registrar for certification,” reads the Bill that was passed by the National Assembly last Wednesday.

Push for amendments

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata said they will debate objectively, adopt sections that are good in a bipartisan manner but delete sections his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) deems unconstitutional.

“UDA will propose to delete sections that negate the constitution. We hope our Azimio colleagues will not use force like they did in the National Assembly,” Mr Kang’ata said.

Mr Kang’ata said UDA will push for amendments to delete Clause 22 on the powers given to the Registrar of Political Parties.

He said that, if left unchallenged, the registrar can manipulate party nominations and make them undemocratic.

“The registrar has been given unfettered powers to control political parties’ membership register and, consequently, to control the list of people who will be allowed to participate in party nominations,” Mr Kang’ata said.

The DP’s allies are also uncomfortable with a proposal seeking to compel coalition parties to deposit their pre-election agreement with the registrar four months to the General Election. They argue that the provision is meant to coerce parties to join certain alliances.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo said that, unlike the National Assembly, there will be robust debate in the Senate and those with amendments will also be given an opportunity to canvass.

He said they have already identified areas to be amended, which they will communicate later.

Political compromise

“If there are any amendments, the magic number required at the Senate is 24 for it to pass,” Mr Kilonzo explained.

Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ said they will defend the gains made in the Bill in the National Assembly.

“We are aware that legislation is about political compromise and so we will defend as much as possible the gains made in the National Assembly. Those with the proposed amendments will submit to the Justice Committee,” Mr Kajwang’ said.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said the proposal to expand the roles of the parties’ registrar is against the constitution and will be amended by the Senate.

“The role of the registrar as contemplated in the Bill undermines the rights of political parties as guaranteed in the constitution. That amendment will have to be taken to mediation,” Mr Cherargei said.

Mr Cherargei said UDA is ready for a duel should the voice of reason fail to prevail in the Senate.

Other Bills lined up for consideration are the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Amendment) Bill, the County Hall of Fame Bill, Intergovernmental Amendment Bill, County Government Amendment Bill and the County Oversight and Accountability Bill.

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