Debate rages on Uhuru convening Parliament amid repeat elections
Nasa is reading political mischief in the move while Jubilee maintains President’s action is lawful
The decision by President Uhuru Kenyatta to convene the two houses of Parliament even before the Supreme Court ruled on a petition challenging his election and his official address to parliamentarians before the upcoming fresh elections has ignited debate on the real intentions of the Jubilee party leader.
While the National Assembly’s Leader of Majority Aden Duale has denied any political mischief in the move as suggested by members of Nasa, politicians allied to the President’s party have been giving conflicting signals.
Some legislators have separately vowed to use their numerical strength in Parliament to push for friendly electoral legislations besides “punishing the Judiciary” for annulling the President’s poll victory as declared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
This week, the senators allied to Jubilee made clear their intentions and urgency of enacting relevant laws to avoid the scenarios witnessed after the August 8 presidential election.
Leader of the Majority in the Senate, Kipchumba Murkomen, was categorical they would “pass laws to protect the decision of the voter to stop some institutions from making decisions that annul the decision of a voter.”
The National Assembly’s Leader of Minority, John Mbadi claims Jubilee’s decision to quickly reconvene Parliament and push through certain legislations is motivated by political mischief.
He says that the President’s party is determined to use its majority numbers in Parliament – while they last – to fix legislations they deem uncomfortable.
One of the areas the Nasa politicians suspect could be targeted is the Judiciary, with Mr Mbadi claiming Jubilee plots to legislate against the independence of the institution. He is also concerned that Jubilee may be keen to tamper with Article 86 of the Constitution “to allow them a free hand to rig elections”.
The said Article 86 stipulates that “at every election, the IEBC shall ensure that— (a) whatever voting method is used, the system is simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent.”
Mr Mbadi, who is also Chairman of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) claims their rivals in Jubilee are uncomfortable with this very prescription.
Kenyatta University lecturer, Dr Edward Kisiang’ani, attributes the current confusion to a lacuna within the Constitution.
According to Dr Kisiang’ani, the drafters of the Constitution never anticipated a situation where Parliament would be in operation while Kenyans would be stuck in a prolonged situation of a contested presidency.
“It was quite in order for both houses of Parliament to convene. It is dangerous for a country to have an Executive whose functions are limited by law and a non operational legislature. Suppose we are faced with a case of external aggression, what happens?” he poses.
Dr Kisiang’ani also finds it hypocritical that some MPS who are opposed to the reconvening of Parliament did not contest taking an oath as legislators late last month.
“It is courtesy of the President’s gazette notice for Parliament to reconvene that these MPS will – in the first place – be earning salaries at the end of this month.”
Mr Duale buttresses this argument by quoting Article 132 (1) of the Constitution, which states thus: “The President shall (a) address the opening of each newly elected Parliament; (b) address a special sitting of Parliament once every year and may address Parliament at any other time; and (c) once every year.”
Mr Duale maintains that parliamentary sittings are being conducted in accordance with dictates of the law, which require that the President gazettes the date when sessions begin and addresses both houses of Parliament as per Article 132, to pave way for legislative business by MPS.
And Mr Duale enumerates a host of undertakings lined up for parliamentarians, including debate on the President’s address followed by a oneweek induction workshop for legislators, discussion on supplementary budgets including the Sh15 billion request by the IEBC to facilitate the upcoming fresh presidential poll as well as the republishing of at least 15 bills which lapsed in the eleventh parliament, including the Election Offences Bill.
“As you can see, our in-tray is already overflowing. And one of the pending things we have to urgently conclude is the election of MPS to the East African Legislative Assembly. The rest of the countries in the region concluded the exercise on June 1st but the Assembly has not convened because Kenya is yet to nominate her MPS. We cannot continue holding the region at ransom,” says Mr Duale.
“We had to reconvene ahead of the Supreme Court ruling and thereafter the fresh presidential election, just in case the court demands of us to put in place certain legislative measures to facilitate more effective and accountable elections,” adds Mr Duale.
But Mr Mbadi, accuses the Jubilee Party of what he considers a haste decision to get the parliamentary business going on with a view to hoodwinking the international community that President Kenyatta is firmly in charge and that the country is running smoothly, the impasse over fresh presidential elections notwithstanding.
“They simply wanted to condition people’s minds to the effect that things are moving on well and wanted to pass a message to the international community that the situation in Kenya is under control. Instead of addressing the real challenges that stand in the way of a credible repeat poll, Jubilee is busy portraying a false impression of the situation in the country and we will not allow that,” Mr Mbadi told the Sunday Nation.
The Suba South MP singles out the rush to constitute the House Business Committee to pave way for immediate transaction of parliamentary business, as a pointer to Jubilee’s “suspicious agenda”.
“In the history of Kenya’s parliamentary proceedings, a House Business Committee has never been constituted with members of only one side of the party. Even in 2013, when there was a similar standoff, we gave enough room for consultations before assembling membership to the committee. So why the hurry now?” poses Mr Mbadi.
Noting that actions by the President and members of his Jubilee Party are in tune with the written law, public law advocate Harun Ndubi observes that Mr Kenyatta is ruling by law, which is not the same thing as rule of the law.
According to the lawyer, Jubilee is conveniently following the letter and not the spirit of the Constitution. The latter is not captured in writing but rather it is construed wholesomely by capturing the wishes and goodwill of the people.
“It is inappropriate, for instance, for Jubilee to presume that it can manage political activities of the country in Parliament on its own. It was also wrong for the President to convene parliamentary sittings against the backdrop of an impending fresh poll,” explains Mr Ndubi.
The lawyer notes that even if Parliament hurriedly crafts legislations at this point in time, Mr Kenyatta who is serving under “temporary incumbency” cannot assent to them or even make certain appointments in government.
“One therefore can only read political mischief in the latest move because in the current situation, Parliament and government are about 60 per cent ineffective,” Mr Ndubi says.
However, Dr Kisiang’ani allays fears that Jubilee might (mis)use her numbers to rush through selfish and punitive laws adding that “a blind spot awaits any such mischief at the Judiciary.
It was wrong for the President to convene parliamentary sittings against a backdrop of an impending fresh poll,” Lawyer Harun Ndubi
President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing a joint parliamentary sitting.