Rebel MPs cornered
Published on May 23, 2008, 12:00 am
By Standard Team
PARTY rebels agitating for a grand coalition appeared cornered after President Kibaki swiftly moved to give effect to a law that would see MPs who defect to other parties lose their seats.
In a seemingly orchestrated move, the Grand Coalition Cabinet on its second meeting decisively laid down strategy that would scuttle the proposed grand opposition.
They also seemed to narrow in on how to tackle the thorny issue of amnesty for suspects of post-election crimes.
Cabinet, which exactly a week ago appeared split on the issue of the formation of an opposition, on Thursday resolved in unison to flatly reject it as President Kibaki went a step further to place an insurmountable hurdle to such an outfit.
The President, soon after the Cabinet meeting, which he chaired, gazetted July 1 as the commencement date for the Political Parties Act — which will among other things make it impossible for MPs to defect to other parties without relinquishing their seats.
This will make the proponents of the grand opposition think twice, even when they disagree with the Cabinet stand.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga affirmed the stand by Cabinet soon after the meeting, expressing his exception to the proposed opposition.
“A ruling political party cannot also be in the opposition. You are either in Government or out of Government. The role of the backbench is to check the front bench,’’ said Raila in an interview with KTN.
And on the divisive issue of amnesty, Cabinet moved away from taking extreme positions and resolved to call in the police to categorise crimes in terms of gravity, institute investigations and refer back to Cabinet for further consideration.
Cabinet Ministers from PNU have been facing off with their colleagues in ODM with the latter calling for amnesty and the former calling for prosecution of suspects.
But on Thursday, the two sides appeared to move towards the middle after a police memorandum was handed to the Cabinet from the office of Police Commissioner detailing crimes committed in post-election violence.
The meeting resolved to fast track a proposed Commission of Inquiry into post-election violence, which will tackle most outstanding contentions.
Soon after the meeting, President Kibaki moved swiftly to appoint members to the Commission.
They include Mr Philip Waki, Judge of Court of Appeal as chairman, Mr Gavin Alistair McFadyen, Mr Pascal K. Kambale as commissioners, Mr George Mong’are Kegoro as secretary and David Shikomera Majanja as counsel to the commission.
A dispatch by the Presidential Press Service said the ministers decided that the due process of the law be followed in the amnesty issue and that there be total impartiality in regard to investigations and prosecutions.
Raila, who had at the weekend called for amnesty, ruled out blanket pardon, especially for serious crimes like murder and rape.
He, however, said youths arrested on ‘flimsy’ charges should be forgiven and that thorough investigations by an independent body be carried out on serious crimes.
The Cabinet meeting, which lasted between mid-morning and late afternoon, appeared to realise the hostility that its decisions would attract from MPs from both ODM and PNU and called on party chiefs to urgently caucus with their respective groups to explain the stand.
ODM, majority of whose MPs have been pushing for a grand opposition, will this morning hold a joint National Executive Council and Parliamentary Group meeting in Nairobi, with part of the agenda being to bridge the gap between Cabinet ministers and rebel legislators.
ODM Secretary-General Prof Anyang Nyong’o confirmed the meeting on Thursday night, which had been arranged earlier, but which would now play part of the Cabinet agenda to try and quell the quest for an opposition by MPs.
Sources in PNU also indicated that an urgent PG was being planned to carry the Cabinet agenda to the MPs who have been pushing for an opposition.
But if the rebel MPs will not drop their quest for an opposition against the Government, the coming into law of the Political Parties Act in slightly over a month’s time will make it almost impossible to form an opposition.
The Political Parties Bill, passed by Parliament in September before the Ninth House was dissolved, and assented to by the President, would tighten the space enjoyed by all political parties, let alone formation of new ones.
The more than 300 registered political parties would be brought under close check by the Act, with majority being left with the option of closing shop.
Under the Act, all political parties would now have to be registered by the Electoral Commission of Kenya and not the Registrar of Societies.
The Act would also institutionalise parties, and curb freestyle defections by making it mandatory for an MP to lose a seat if they enjoy the benefits of another party, like Cabinet appointments.
Parties without MPs and Civic members would be deregistered.
The Act spells out that all political parties would henceforth get funding from Treasury. It bars all foreign funding, which has been the lifeline of some main parties.
Government funding of the parties would be in proportion to the number of votes cast for a particular party at Parliamentary and Civic elections, and representation in Parliament and local authorities.
The new law sets the maximum amount of money an individual can contribute to a party annually at Sh5 million. It further stipulates that parties must comply with the requirements of the Act within six months or be deregistered.
Former Kabete MP, Mr Paul Muite, last night hailed Kibaki for gazetting the Act.
“It has been lapsing on the agenda of the House for long. It will bring discipline to parties and curb defections and entrench multiparty democracy,” Muite said.
-Reports By David Ohito and Joseph Murimi