The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: MPs Amend Law to Allow Party Hopping

Photo: Capital FM /Charles kimani
(From left to Right) Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta after a meeting at the Norfolk Hotel yesterday. Politicians have passed a law that will facilitate party switching.

MPs last evening finally amended the Election Act giving a lifeline to party hoppers.

It means the current MPs will be free to keep changing parties until January 3, 2013, only two months to the general election.

The MPs approved the Election (Amendment) (No 2) Bill and effectively changed Section 34(8) of the Elections Act which required that a member should be in the party list on which to contest the election three months before the list is submitted to the Registrar of Political Parties.

Now the parties are required to submit their lists not later than January 4. Only those on these lists will be allowed to vie or be nominated to the National Assembly or Senate. Those vying as independent candidates however are guided by a different regulation.

The original Act required that members belong to the party through which they will vie for seats by yesterday, which was three months to January 4.

The changes made yesterday mean that the over 100 MPs who want to leave parties which sponsored them to Parliament will serve their full term without any legal challenge.

In the original Act, the provision was that any person who intends to contest in the March 4, 2013 elections would have to be a member of the sponsor party not later than October 4, 2012.

The MPs termed this provision unfair arguing that the term of the current Parliament runs up to January 14, 2013. "Considering the large number of legislators and councillors that may be affected, this provision left unamended is likely to distort if not altogether paralyse the work of these key institutions of governance," said Chepalungu MP Isaac Rutto who championed the amendment Bill said.

He said the amendment was aimed at harmonising section 34 (8) with section 28 of the Election Act which require a political party that nominates a person for any election under the Act must submit to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission the membership list at least two months before the general election.

The amendment, brought through a special route, described in parliamentary lingo as "the leave of the House", suffered a setback on Wednesday when it entered the crucial committee stage, after more than three MPs opposed it.

The Bill had been rushed through the first and second reading and appeared headed for a record enactment time until the Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim explained to MPs that "the leave of the House" means that it should be passed through a consensus, without any opposition.

Maalim said the Standing Orders require that if three or more MPs opposed the Bill, it would procedurally be lost. Then it was shelved until yesterday when it was passed with no opposition.

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InFocus

Kenya Passes Party-Hopping Bill

Parliament has passed the Elections Act Amendment Bill, allowing politicians to change parties at will until January 4th, 2013. Read more »