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House fast-tracks two election Bills as Nasa MPs walk out

The Parliament in  Nairobi on January 06, 2017.PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO
The Parliament in Nairobi on January 06, 2017.PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO 

MPs have voted 144-53 to shorten the maturation period for two bills to change the way presidential elections will be handled and to punish errant presiding officers and returning officers.

Opposition MPs forced Deputy Speaker Moses Cheboi to call for physical voting after they lost the first round of voting by acclamation.

Jubilee Party MPs then flexed their numerical strength to win that round.

The opposition MPs then walked out of the chamber in protest, saying the move to change the laws managing the elections and setting out punishment for those who break them would take the country back to the days of bad management of elections.

The vote was preceded by robust debate as Jubilee MPs argued their proposals are to align the laws with the decision of the Supreme Court on the last election and the Court of Appeal in the Maina Kiai case but opposition MPs said the changes amounted to changing the rules of a game at half-time.

There was concern from the very start of the motion by Majority Leader Aden Duale to reduce the publication period for the two Bills.

Substantive committee

Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch argued that without a substantive Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, it was not proper to bring the law.

He also said the decision would not bode well for peace in a country that has been in election mood for most of this year.

“We owe ourselves and the country the duty to bring down this tension. If we continue in the direction the Leader of Majority is taking, we are likely to increase the tension,” said Mr Aluoch.

Mr Duale, however, insisted that MPs were simply being called upon to make laws, one of the mandates they have been given in the Constitution.

“Nobody can deny this House or these members that fundamental right in the Constitution. This is my role and it is the plenary (to either) agree with my proposal (or) ... disagree with my proposal,” said Mr Duale.

He asked everybody to read the Bills and verify that no section affects either the Supreme Court or the Judiciary.

“What this Bill is trying to do is one, rise to the occasion to the judgement given by the Supreme Court, both by the majority and the minority, that Parliament must make changes to the laws used to govern the elections,” he said.

“This Bill is saying, ‘Yes. Let the two systems, the manual system and the electronic transmission, move concurrently’. That the chairman must have the forms before he announces the winner,” he added.

He said the Bills are only attempting to “clean-up” the law in line with the decision of the Court of Appeal in the Maina Kiai case.

“There is nothing mischievous and do not bring something that is not in this Bill,” he added.

He said there would be 10 days for the public to participate in the scrutiny of the proposed law and asked the church, the electoral commission, the business community and political leaders to give their input.

Supreme Court

But Opposition MPs dismissed the arguments and rejected the Bills in total.

Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said that even if it is passed and assented to, the Bill would still be legally doomed.

“No matter what we do, to the extent to the Bill that is contemplated, that Bill, even if we pass it and it is assented to, that Bill would be unconstitutional. It would likely lead to the postponement of the elections to a date that we don’t know,” he argued.

He said the order by the Supreme Court that the IEBC should conduct a repeat election as prescribed by “the law” referred to the law as it was on August 8.

“If you change the law, the IEBC will be at a crossroads; does it follow the Supreme Court’s directions or the law as hurriedly changed by Parliament?” he said.

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