NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 16 – Members of Parliament have passed the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill by 174 votes.
The bill, if signed into law, will pave the way for the disbandment of the Electoral Commission of Kenya and replacing it with an interim Independent electoral body.
The National Assembly passed the bill during an extended sitting, after a motion moved by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.
“We had a very successful Kamukunji. And therefore Mr Speaker, I would like to urge colleagues that we try and burn the midnight oil tonight in order to be able to give this country the Christmas gift that it deserves. By way of passing unanimously the Constitutional Amendment Bill,” the VP proposed.
Earlier, at an informal meeting of MPs at Old Chambers, chaired by President Mwai Kibaki, legislators had resolved to give their full backing to the Bill.
The lawmakers resolved to pass the Bill to set up an Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC).
“We have agreed and I expect the Bill to go through when it is brought before parliament this (Thursday) afternoon,” the chairman of the parliamentary on the Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs Abdikadir Mohammed told Capital News after the meeting.
A member of the committee Ababu Namwamba said the Bill’s passage would start the process of much needed electoral reforms and the constitution review process.
“The meeting has taken record time because there was consensus. Those of us who are members of the justice committee met with the Serena Team under the chairmanship of the premier last Friday,” he said.
“We had thrashed out all the issue and today we should pass the Bill and proceed to fast track the reconstruction of the ECK and also get the constitution reform process on track,” he said.
The meeting which lasted less than an hour was attended by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.
The meeting followed an apparent deadlock due to failure by President Kibaki and PM Raila Odinga to whip up support for the Bill. Twice last week, legislators flatly rejected pleas from the two leaders during the Speaker’s Kamukunji.
Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said MPs agreed to push the Bill through the three stages on Thursday afternoon.
“We expect by the end of the day today to have agreed and passed the amendment without any problems," he said.
According to the amended Bill, all the ECK staff except the 22 commissioners would be moved to the public service after the dissolution of ECK.
The new proposed law stipulates that both the Independent Interim Electoral Commission and the Interim Independent Boundary Review Commission (IIBRC) would exist for a maximum of 24 months after enactment of the new law. "We agreed that the period of existence of the two commissions be extended from the initial 15 to 24 months," said Mr Abdikadir.
Further, it was agreed that the maximum number of Commissioners in the IIEC be increased from four to eight as proposed by the Serena Team in the last draft.
The amended Bill gives a 27-member house select committee and the Serena Team the power to nominate commissioners, upon which for the President will appoint from a list of short-listed individuals forwarded by Parliament.