June 28th 2017

Media / Watchdog

Jubilee's amendments of bipartisan pact put Kenya on precipice

"How do you have a thriving multi billion mobile money sector, file our tax returns online, have a Sh150 billion fully online gambling industry, and then you want to tell us that a 12-hour election once every five years cannot be done electronically?" posed Junet Mohamed (MP for Suna East).

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 22 Dec 2016 13:32 EAT

Today’s passage of the proposed amendments to electoral laws heightens tension in the country as CORD MPs have threatened to return to the streets or even boycott the next elections. CORD leader Raila Odinga had already warned that no elections would be held if the Jubilee MPs go ahead and pass the amendments to the electoral laws.

And as focus is on the latest move by Jubilee, the media can’t escape blame for failing to highlight the facts about the electoral laws that were agreed upon by a Joint Select Committee of MPs and Senators. It should be noted that the laws which Jubilee MPs have now amended were passed without any changes on Thursday 1 September after legislators from both sides bowed to pressure from President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to withdraw changes to the package that had been agreed by a bipartisan committee of members from both houses of Parliament.

What has happened now beats logic since the two principals were in agreement that no changes should be made to the Bill which was a by-product of the defunct joint parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms. Both CORD and Jubilee legislators withdrew their amendments to the bill in a dramatic session that saw every change, including on the disputed anti-party hopping clause, dropped despite movers pleading with their colleagues to pass.

It became clear during the session presided over by a substantive chair Rachael Shebesh that no legislator dared to either defy their two principals' directive. It is surprising that main media houses have just reported as drama ensued in Parliament on Tuesday and today which saw CORD lawmakers storm out of the chambers in protest giving the Jubilee counterparts a free ride to pass all proposed amendments to the Elections Act.

The MPs debated changes proposed by the Legal Affairs Committee, which among other things, reinstated provisions for manual identification of voters in case the electronic system fails. The House also adopted a proposal for manual transmission of results, which the opposition had opposed.

The Jubilee Party took advantage of its numbers in the House to push through the changes to laws. In a dramatic development, Parliament passed in 45 minutes amendments to provide for "complementary" transmission of results and identification of voters if technology fails. CORD MPs walked in solidarity to the Milimani Commercial Courts where their leaders have filed a case challenging revision of the negotiated poll regulations.

The hearing before Justice George Odunga was attended by Mr Odinga who on Wednesday vowed that there will be no elections if Jubilee passed changes to the poll laws. ODM termed the new move "part of Jubilee's scheme to allow dead voters to vote, as well as ballot stuffing in 2017."

"How do you have a thriving multibillion mobile money sector, file our tax returns online, have a Sh150 billion fully online gambling industry, and then you want to tell us that a 12-hour election once every five years cannot be done electronically?" said ODM director of elections Junet Mohamed (Suna East).

Security was stepped up around Parliament. Earlier, a live broadcast from the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit was cut off, journalists blocked from accessing the gallery, and the chamber cordoned off. NTV Reporter Kennedy Muriithi was arrested and his phone confiscated for taking photo of the MPs as they went into the House. He was later released.

In the morning, MPs were forced to walk after Parliament Road and Harambee Road were cordoned off. The legislators used the public entrance opposite the County Hall with their usual entrance opposite the Kenyatta International Convention Centre blocked by anti-riot police.

After passing the changes in a record 45 minutes, Jubilee MPs walked out of the House chanting victory songs. The celebration was a hit-back at their CORD counterparts who broke into song and dance after frustrating discussion of the changes during the Tuesday sitting.

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