A clear majority in parliament paves the way for Kenya's Jubilee agenda

Saturday August 12 2017

A joint parliamentary and Senate sitting during a State of the Nation address by President Uhuru Kenyatta.  PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI

A joint parliamentary and Senate sitting during a State of the Nation address by President Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ERICK ODUOR
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Kenya's Jubilee Party will have unfettered control over both the National Assembly and Senate, which will see it push through its legislative agenda, including amendments to sections of the Constitution that require a two-thirds majority.

As of Friday, Jubilee had 194 MPs out of 337 in the National Assembly and the number could rise as the country awaits the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to gazette the names of nominated MPs, where Jubilee will claim the lion’s share of the available 12 slots.

In addition, the party will also enjoy the support of independent MPs, who insiders say, could be offered slots in parliamentary committees to entice them to back Jubilee.

In the Senate, Jubilee claimed 27 out of 47 available and is assured of more nominated senator slots, based on its performance in this election.

Political Parties Fund

Combined with the privileges it will enjoy from the State as the ruling party, Jubilee Party will also get the lion’s share of the Political Parties Fund, which is usually allocated based on parties’ strength in parliament.

The law requires the government to allocate at least 0.3 per cent of the national budget every financial year to the Political Parties Fund. Parties must have 20 elected members of the National Assembly, three elected senators, three elected governors and 40 members of County Assemblies to qualify for funding.

The first agenda in the Houses will be election of speakers, a fight Jubilee will engage in with an upper hand, though if need be, will have to lobby a few Members of Parliament to get a two-thirds majority win in the first round, if its numbers are below 232.

Gender rule

This means that getting a two-thirds majority in passing crucial Bills that could change the Constitution will be an easy task when the 12th Parliament convenes.

Its inability to marshal two-thirds majority in the last parliament made it difficult for the ruling party to pass a gender rule, which could have seen the next parliament strike a deal to see more women in parliament.

While President Kenyatta controlled the majority in the National Assembly with a combined force of 167 MPs, the opposition had 130 MPs, with the rest going to small parties that later teamed up with the ruling party.

This “tyranny of numbers” helped the Jubilee government push through its agenda in the 11th Parliament, including amendments to crucial electoral laws despite protests from a numerically weak opposition. Some of the laws, however, were declared by the courts to be unconstitutional. 

However, in the just-concluded elections, the number of opposition MPs has dropped significantly. It is also likely that Jubilee will work with those elected on friendly parties like Maendeleo Chap Chap and the independents.

Jubilee trounced the opposition parties in regions where internal competition among affiliates of the National Super Alliance (Nasa) split the votes.

Raided strongholds

For instance, Jubilee Party won nine seats in western Kenya, perceived to be an opposition stronghold due to internal competition between affiliates Orange Democratic Movement, Amani National Congress and Ford Kenya.

Jubilee increased its numbers in parliament courtesy of the inroads it made in Nasa’s strongholds like Kakamega (four), Bungoma (four), Kisii (two), Nyamira (two) and Migori (two).

The ruling party campaigns in Machakos and Kitui counties, the strongholds of Wiper Democratic Movement, headed by Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Raila Odinga’s running mate bore fruit after winning three seats — Machakos Town, Kitui East and Kitui South constituencies.

A weak opposition in parliament will expose the country to bogus laws and skewed appointment of key government officials who only need endorsement by MPs in order to assume office.

According to the Constitution, parliament vets senior government officials, among them Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and members of various constitutional commissions.

Once sworn into office, President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto will embark on constituting a government, which will see some fresh faces joining as Cabinet Secretaries and heads of constitutional commissions, whose terms in office are almost coming to end.

For instance, the term of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission commissioners ends in November this year, and parliament will vet new appointees before formal appointment by the president.

Successors

Other senior government officials whose terms will come to an end next year are Attorney-General Prof Githu Muigai and Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, whose successors will have to pass through Members of Parliament before President Kenyatta makes the formal appointments.

Committees, where most parliamentary work is done will also be dominated by Jubilee MPs and their numbers will rise if independent MPs and other parties are co-opted to elbow out the opposition.