, NAIROBI, Kenya May 9 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Eldoret North MP William Ruto clashed yet again in Parliament on Wednesday, this time over party hopping.
Trouble started when Odinga in his weekly address to Parliament spoke against the trend saying it was killing democracy in Kenya.
He said political parties form the foundation of multi-party democratic system and as such it should be respected.
“Our democracy will only be as strong as our political parties. Political parties give life to our democracy. Political parties and leadership thereof that does not respect constitutionalism undermines as opposed to promoting democracy. The ethnicisation of our political parties is a cause of great concern,” he said.
He said equally worrying, was the pattern of behaviour by political leaders to exhibit open disrespect of the laws that regulate membership and activities of political parties.
”The enforcement of the laws on political parties need to be strengthened to safeguard our democracy against opportunistic politics and instil the necessary level of democratic discipline amongst the political class,” the PM said in his weekly address.
Ruto who has since ditched Odinga’s ODM party shot up and questioned why the PM was castigating those who have defected from political parties yet he held the record for party hopping.
“The PM holds the record in this House to having changed parties, he hasn’t told the House how he managed to change to these parties. I think he must be in his 8th party. What drove him from a one party to another?” posed Ruto.
But Odinga was quick to point out that Ruto was also a culprit of party hopping.
“Whenever I have changed I have changed for the better. The member says I hold a record but I have changed political parties for only four times because NARC was not a political party as such we were all in LDP,” Odinga said.
He went on to take on Ruto: “Kanu, ODM, UDM and URP are four he, himself has changed parties four times in the recent time,” he said amid wild cheers from the MPs in the House.
In his parting shot to his former ally, Odinga brushed off claims ODM is on the decline which has recently seen its top leadership leaving for other parties.
“He says he was once upon a time a member of my party in fact a deputy party leader, he left. But whenever an opinion poll is carried out on the popularity of the political parties, ODM always came out on top. For his own information Mr Speaker, ODM is the only national party today, is the strongest party and that will be proved in the coming elections.”
The two leaders also clashed over the issue of the elections date, with the Eldoret North MP – with support of Gichugu MP Martha Karua – faulting the government for failing to move and enact an election date that will be accepted by Kenyans.
Odinga had earlier said the uncertainty over the date is likely to affect preparations for the country to hold peaceful general elections.
The Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission has announced it intends to hold the polls in March 2013, and not in December as is traditional in Kenya following a High Court ruling which stated that the term of Parliament expires in January 2013.
Odinga warned that the emergence of ethnically-based political groups could spell doom in elections due next year.
He told Parliament that the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) had expressed concern over pronouncements by the two groups in particular the Gikuyu, Embu, and Meru Association (GEMA) and KAMATUSA, a group representing pastoralist communities on the candidature of the two ICC suspects.