NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 24 – The government is urging Members of Parliament to support a Bill that backs party nominations to fill special seats in Parliament and the Senate, to meet the gender representation rule.
Attorney General Githu Muigai in an interview with Capital FM News advised MPs to pass the Bill published by Mutula Kilonzo when he was the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister to avoid a constitutional crisis.
“We will seek to persuade Parliament to pass the Amendment Bill as it was published by Mutula. This is the easiest way to achieve the one third gender rule without doing much violence to the spirit of the constitution. It is something that poses a real threat to the future,” Muigai asserted.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday also urged MPs to support the Bill to ensure the country achieves gender parity. He maintained that opinions aired by Orange Democratic Movement lawmakers were personal and not the position of his party.
“I therefore wish to appeal to all ODM MPs to remember their contract with the people of Kenya and rally behind the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2011, now before Parliament. In the interest of the Constitution, the minorities and the disadvantaged, I urge all MPs regardless of party affiliation, to support the Bill and vote for it in the House. Failure to do so would be a betrayal of the Constitution, the people of Kenya in general, and the women in particular. I believe that if we have the will to support the constitutional provisions on gender, we will find the way to implement them,” a statement from his office indicated.
ODM Chief Whip MP Jakoyo Midiwo wants the 47 county seats reserved for women scrapped and also 80 new constituencies created under the 2010 Constitution revoked, to keep the number of elected MPs to a maximum of 290.
Muigai who is the government’s chief legal advisor urged MPs to turn in big numbers on Wednesday and Thursday to ensure there will be a two thirds majority required for the debate to start.
He further warned MPs that if they do not pass the Amendment Bill before Parliament is dissolved, the country will run into a constitutional crisis at the risk of having an illegitimate Parliament.
“If by the time this Parliament breaks we do not have the law in place, and we conduct an election that will not produce the constitutionally envisaged parliament, it will then mean that we will have an illegitimate Parliament that will not be able to assume office and they will not be able to amend the law because there will be nobody to amend the law,” he warned.
Their remarks come at a time when the country cannot agree on the best way of ensuring not more than two-thirds of the membership of the National Assembly is of the same gender. Whereas Odinga and Muigai think Kilonzo’s Bill will do away with a bloated Parliament others think otherwise.
Kenya is supposed to have 290 MPs under the new constitution of which 117 must be women or men. However the controversy and puzzle is that it will be hard for the country to achieve the gender rule without having a bloated Parliament since parties cannot force voters to elect a woman or a man.
The country also has no choice but to ensure the gender rule is implemented since MPs will be in Parliament illegally as Muigai explained.
Kilonzo last September tabled in Parliament the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2011 stipulating how the National Assembly and the Senate shall nominate MPs after the elections to ensure not more than two thirds are of the same gender.
The new Bill approved by the Cabinet was proposing that political parties prepare party lists prior to the elections, from which members are to be nominated to both Houses of Parliament to meet the gender balance.
“The members contemplated shall be nominated by political parties in proportion to the Senate seats received by the political party at the general election… The filling of special seats shall be determined after the declaration of elected members from each county,” the Bill indicates.
The Bill presented by Kilonzo proposes that nominees who are to be appointed to meet the constitutional gender quota in Parliament shall be from political party lists that will be presented before elections.