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Senate promises ‘dignified’ debate on contentious poll law amendments

House Speaker Ekwe Ethuro/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 28 – The Senate was on Wednesday expected to convene for a special sitting to debate the Elections (Amendment) Bill passed by the National Assembly last week in a session boycotted by opposition legislators.

The amendments proposed by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) attracted fierce criticism from opposition-allied parliamentarians, who faulted the majority side for being used by the Jubilee administration to alter provisions of elections law passed by both Houses of Parliament, after a 14-member Joint Parliamentary Select Committee sealed a deal on election reforms following weeks of protests by the opposition who called for an overhaul of the electoral system.

Drama ensued at the National Assembly on Tuesday last week as CORD MPs blocked the Speaker of the House from accessing the chambers ahead of a special seating convened by Speaker Justin Muturi, forcing the House to reschedule the sitting a day later when the amendments were passed.

“What would be the justification for sending away a voter on the basis of the gadgets not accepting or recognising fingerprints when the very voter –in flesh and blood — is right in front of the polling clerk with all identification details?,” Jubilee Party Secretariat head Raphael Tuju posed on Saturday in response to demands by opposition MPs who walked out of National Assembly ahead of the debate.

According to the Order Paper, the Senate is expected to convene at 10 am under the leadership of Speaker Ekwe Ethuro before embarking on the crucial task of considering the amendments proposed by the IEBC which will be forwarded to the President for assent if passed by Senators.

Those opposed to amendments on the election law have cited an agreement reached before the passing of the initial law by both houses following a report by the 14-member Joint Parliamentary Select Committee constituted to resolve the standoff on electoral reforms, arguing that the position remained the same notwithstanding issues raised by the IEBC after the law was passed.

“As a Parliament we agreed that that document will be passed without a comma and we passed that,” said Seme MP Dr James Nyikal after walking out of National Assembly in protest on Tuesday last week.

“Just because time has passed that does not change that position. What should been done is take back that document to the team that came up with it.”

This position was however dismissed by Jubilee MPs who argued that IEBC was entitled to recommend changes it felt would help the commission discharge its mandate effectively and thus point out loopholes in the law.

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