NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 25 – The fate of the Joint Select Committee’s report on electoral reforms, including a controversial proposal banning party-hopping is likely to be decided by the Mediation Committee, after MPs in the National Assembly and Senate appeared to be pulling in different directions.
While Senators who had to be called for a Special Sitting passed the report without any amendments, their colleagues in the National Assembly went ahead and amended paragraph 659 sub-paragraph 7 that outlawed party hopping when a member loses in party primaries.
This is despite an advisory by House Speaker Justin Muturi that no amendment should be done on the report once it’s tabled as it would affect the timeline for having new IEBC Commissioners in office by September 30.
The acrimonious nature of the debate in the National Assembly forced Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso to postpone debate on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and electoral reforms to Thursday afternoon to allow consultations on possible amendments.
House Leaders Aden Duale and Francis Nyenze raised objections to a decision by the House to amend the report.
They requested Laboso to make a ruling on the constitutionality of the amendments that members where proposing citing the Speaker’s ruling which was meant to ensure that none of the Houses interfered with the committee findings which would then end up affecting the September 30 deadline.
The House unanimously carried the amendment by Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch effectively removing the clause against party-hopping.
Aluoch had argued the restrictions on party-hopping would likely amount to a breach of the Constitution.
Humphrey Njuguna (Gatanga) is among 80 legislators who made it to the Eleventh Parliament after they jumped ship from parties in which they were unfairly denied their nomination.
“The issue before us touches at the heart of the Constitution. I’m a product of party-hopping. These are serious issues and even as Hon Aluoch observed, let us not engage in a futile exercise,” Njuguna said.
A bid by Ainamoi MP Benjamin Lang’at that debate be postponed was earlier rejected.
Those opposed to the postponement rallied MPs to vote 107-22 for debate to continue.
In the Senate, Committee Co-Chairs Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi and his Siaya counterpart James Orengo defended the proposed ban on party-hopping for aspirants who lose in the party nominations especially because they are likely to decamp to other parties and started fighting the winners under the guise of other parties.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr who were also a members of the committee said aspirants who choose vie on certain parties, should remain members not only for election purposes but for ideological reasons.
Busia Senator Amos Wako criticized the proposed law providing that primaries for candidates from various political parties be held on the same day as for independent candidates.
The former AG said party nominations should be conducted before nominations for independents to give losers a chance to run on other platforms.
Migori Senator Wilfred Machage and Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar also opposed the law, saying many MPs and governors would not have been elected having decamped to other parties after initially losing out on nominations.