As the results for Kenya’s presidential election continued to trickle in, the focus shifted to the battle for Parliament, the other arm of government where a president commanding the majority enjoys the legroom to implement his policies and programmes, but would be severely hamstrung if in a minority.
For Deputy President William Ruto of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio la Umoja coalition rival Raila Odinga — who were in a neck-and-neck race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta — control of Parliament for whoever wins State House would be crucial.
For either of them, winning the presidency but not controlling Parliament, which is made up of the National Assembly and the Senate, would come at the risk of having legislative and budgetary proposals constantly thrown out or delayed, and in the worst-case scenario, face threats of impeachment.
That is why since the return of the multi-party system, every Head of State, from Daniel arap Moi to Mwai Kibaki and outgoing Uhuru Kenyatta, has made it the first order of business to ensure a tight grip by influencing the composition of the House leadership starting with the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, the majority leaders, whips and key committee chairs.
When President Kenyatta, in his final term, felt threatened by the forces loyal to his estranged deputy, Ruto, he moved fast to purge the Jubilee parliamentary leadership.
He forced out National Assembly and Senate majority leaders Aden Duale and Kipchumba Murkomen; Majority whips Irungu Kang’ata, Kimani Wamatangi and Susan Kihika, as well as a host of committee chairs.
The battle for Parliament is also a race for the enviable two-thirds majority, which would allow a party, or a coalition of parties, near absolute control of the House, with powers to approve or reject proposals with constitutional changes, as well as control of key decisions, including approving or rejecting a referendum.
In the National Assembly, a two-thirds majority is at least 233 of the 349-member House, comprising 290 directly elected constituency representatives, 47 elected woman county representatives and 12 members nominated to represent special interests.
In the results already declared Thursday or where leading candidates had taken an unassailable lead, Mr Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja has 134 Members, made of up 88 from his ODM party, 23 from President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party, eight from Mr Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Party, five from Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa’s Democratic Action Party (DAP-K) three form former ruling party Kanu, and three from Mandera Governor Ali Roba’s United Democratic Movement (UDM).
Parties in the Azimio fold that had registered one MP were the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), United Party of Independent Alliance (UPIA), Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG), and National Ordinary People Empowerment Union (Nopeu).
Dr Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA), on the other hand, had registered 101 seats, with his Kenya Kwanza partners Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress and Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford-Kenya with six seats each.
Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi’s Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) had three, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap had two, while National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi’s Democratic Party and former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri of The Service Party (TSP) had bagged one seat each.
This brings the total number of Kenya Kwanza Alliance MPs, as tabulated by the Nation to 120 of the 250 seats whose results were apparent last evening.
While the full list will only be clear later, the outcome so far showed Dr Ruto’s UDA is the most dominant party, but his Kenya Kwanza Alliance trails Mr Odinga’s Azimio in a number of seats.
A total of 10 independent candidates had also been declared elected by last evening.
In the last Parliament, Jubilee was just 32 MPs shy of the absolute majority, before the disintegration that saw Dr Ruto hive off a chunk of the outfit to form UDA.
Jubilee had 172 MPs, but the alliance’s strength rose to 200 with the support of Kanu (10), Economic Freedom Party (5), Party for Development and Reform (4), Maendeleo Chap Chap (4), Kenya National Congress (2), and PNU (1).
On the Minority benches, ODM had 73, Wiper (23), ANC (14), Ford-Kenya (13), Chama Cha Mashinani (2), while Chama Cha Uzalendo had one.
There were 14 independent MPs while the other small parties had one each.
For Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga, the control of Parliament began even before the vote was cast — at the gazetted list of the candidates.
Dr Ruto’s UDA fielded candidates in 261 of the 290 constituencies countrywide, casting its net wide and increasing its chances of being the House’s most dominant party.
ANC and Ford-Kenya had respectively sponsored 71 and 34 candidates for the National Assembly.
Also from Kenya Kwanza, Maendeleo Chap Chap fielded 28 while Pamoja African Alliance had 17.
Mr Odinga had 181 National Assembly candidates under his ODM party flag, while Azimio la Umoja coalition partner Jubilee had 178 candidates.
Other Azimio parties that fielded a significant number of candidates include Kanu led by Baringo Senator Gideon Moi with 78, Wiper with 69, and Democratic Action Party-and with 61.
That Kenya Kwanza and Azimio both had many more candidates than the 290 National Assembly seats available is explained by the fact that in many constituencies there were multiple contestants from each coalition fighting each other.