Speaker allows debate on contentious elections Bill

November 23, 2011 5:32 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 22- House Speaker Kenneth Marende ruled on Tuesday that the contentious Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill is admissible and okayed its introduction into the House..

Marende directed that the Bill seeking to change the election date from August to December be slated on the order paper for the first reading on Wednesday afternoon.

He addressed five key issues raised by the backbench MPs who on two occasions blocked the introduction of the Bill through the First Reading.

The Speaker dismissed arguments by the MPs that Constitutional Affair Minister Mutula Kilonzo cannot introduce the Bill since the Constitution in Chapter 16 provides for the introduction of a Bill by Parliamentary Initiative that is through an MP or a popular initiative.

Marende explained: “The provision in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution had been suspended and the former extended to allow members of the executive to introduce a Bill recognising them as MPs.”

He also said the Constitution is not explicit on whether public participation should be before or after publication of a Bill.

The House Speaker noted that the minister was not in breach of the Constitution. Marende however said that it was critical for the minister to ensure everyone was entirely on board and expressed hope that the public will be engaged during the 90 days period preceding debate on the Bill.

Marende also declared that the Bill was not subjudice as the issue at the High Court was different in substance and a constitutional amendment could not compromise the outcome of the case before the courts.

“That the matter at the courts seeks to determine when the election date is while amendments seek to decide what the election date should be,” he clarified.

The Speaker also declared that amalgamating the three key issues into one Bill was not irregular saying precedent had been set not only in Kenya but cited three different countries who have managed to amend the Constitution on three separate issues in one bill.

MPs pleaded with the Speaker to reconsider his ruling, Garsen MP Danson Mungatana leading the charge. He directed the Speaker to Article 35 (3) of the Constitution which requires the State to publish and publicise any important information affecting the nation.

He said the executive had failed to publicise the Bill undermining the principle of public participation demanded in the Constitution.

Gwassi MP John Mbadi wanted the Speaker to interpret Article 256(1b) which states that changes to the Constitution should not address ‘any other matter’ apart from consequential amendments.

He claimed that the provision sought to protect the Constitution against undesirable practices like the three amendments sought by the minister in one bill.

Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale expressed dissatisfaction with the precedent cited by the Speaker – examples of countries- that have been able to amend their constitutions on varied issues through one bill.

Khalwale said countries like Uganda were not good examples in democratic practices.

Nominated MP Millie Mabona Odhiambo urged the Speaker to revise the ruling arguing that the Constitution upholds public participation.

She said any approach to legislation must be approached on this basis pleading with the Speaker not to allow the country start on a wrong footing.

But Minister Mutula Kilonzo insisted the Constitution Amendment Bill 2011 was not an omnibus since it deals with three key issues of elections.

He urged MPs to allow its introduction to enable vigorous public participation.

Kilonzo said the Bill was just a proposal seeking to drive next year’s polls.

Marende will address the issues raised by the MPs on Wednesday afternoon.


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