Kenya: Parties Bill Crucial, Say MPs
The Nation (Nairobi)
17 October 2007
Posted to the web 16 October 2007
MPs were unanimous on the need to pass the Political Parties Bill which President Kibaki rejected and is expected to send back to Parliament today.
But Opposition MPs accused the President of using the Bill to provide a legal landing for his Party of National Unity (PNU) which is faced with challenges of forging a coalition.
Nevertheless, they said they would support the Bill that seeks public funding for political parties when it brought back to the House this afternoon.
Cabinet ministers Musikari Kombo (Webuye, Narc), Mutua Katuku (Mwala, Narc), MPs Paul Muite (Kabete, Safina) and Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu Rural, Narc) said the Bill should be passed before Parliament is dissolved.
Said Prof Nyong’o: “It will be very unfortunate for the President to decline to endorse a Bill seeking such an important milestone like funding and regulation of political parties.”
Seek common position
Since the memorandum on the Bill was before Parliament, he said, MPs allied to ODM would seek a common position to push it through.
Mr Otieno Kajwang’ (Mbita, Narc) said it was untenable that the Government sponsored the Bill “only to turn round and argue over definitions as if the Cabinet had not endorsed it.”
“We are going to reject the President’s memo because Parliament cannot revise a law to solve his problems in PNU. The President must not arm-twist Parliament to sort out personal political problems,” the Mbita MP said.
But MPs allied to Ford-K and Narc-K supported the President’s decision to return the Bill to Parliament stating that the proposed law should cement coalitions.
And an ODM-K official said the party was dismayed that the President had returned the Bill to Parliament.
Secretary-general Mutula Kilonzo said some of the grounds that prompted the President to reject the Bill were “flimsy”.
“ODM-K demands that the President assents to the Bill immediately,” Mr Kilonzo said. But he called on the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Francis ole Kaparo, to set aside time for MPs to consider the President’s memorandum and pass the Bill before Parliament is dissolved.
Mr Kilonzo argued that time was of the essence since Parliament could be dissolved before MPs could discuss the Bill.
And Mr Kombo, also the Local Government minister, said MPs should have included a clause that defines individual and corporate members of parties.
“The President has done the right thing because we need to institutionalise multi-party democracy. The key to it, as I understand, is to be able to define a political party, therein providing for corporate parties, which are the pillars to multi-party, democracy” he said.
Mr Katuku, the Water Resources and Irrigation minister, said the President’s decision will allow MPs to tackle the issue of coalitions, which are a marked feature on the political scene.
“This will enable us to look at the special issue of coalitions. Parliament overlooked it yet it is a reality that all political parties are joining coalitions. We (Narc Kenya) discussed it this morning and agreed with the memorandum,” he said.
Mr Muite expressed surprise at the return of the Bill to Parliament arguing that it should have been assented to as it was a Government Bill. He was referring to the President’s decision to send the Bill to Parliament with a memorandum detailing the clauses to be amended.
In his memo to Parliament, the President proposes to MPs to insert a new Clause 2 in the Bill to define corporate membership of parties. It says:
“Corporate member means a registered political party which is a member of another political party”.
President Kibaki also wants Parliament to insert a new Clause 17 (4) (a) providing safeguards for members who join another political party as corporate members.
Distribution of funds
And Clause 30 on distribution of funds to registered political parties, the President seeks to insert two provisions:
(i) “Where a presidential candidate is supported by more than one political party, only the votes for parliamentary and civic candidates shall be taken into account.”
(ii) “In the case of a political party within a corporate member party which opts for nomination of parliamentary and civic candidates shall further be distributed proportionately to the number of parties in reference to the total number of votes secured at the last General Election by each candidate belonging to a political party.”
Additional reporting by Patrick Nzioka