Nairobi — Two registered voters want the National Assembly to repeal a provision in the Elections Act requiring anyone running for elective posts to have a degree.
Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi informed MPs that he received a petition from Anthony Manyara and John Wangai stating that the Section 22 (1) (b) of the Elections Act is unconstitutional to the extent that they are discriminatory, inconsistent with the Constitutional provisions in the Bill of Rights.
"The petitioners therefore pray that this House deletes Section 22(1)(b) of the Elections Act in its entirety so as to provide a fair playground to all candidates seeking elective positions regardless of their educational backgrounds," read the petition.
They added that the provisions are also against the will and sovereignty of the people.
"In addition, the petitioners claim that the university degree requirement will make political leadership a preserve of the elite and will disenfranchise a number of good leaders who may not have been privileged to pursue higher education. As they may not have completed the pursuit of their degrees within the projected time period of less than two years to the next elections," the petitioner stated further.
Implementation of the amended Section 22 of the Election Act was postponed in the 2017 polls to allow candidates seeking to run for MP and MCA positions to acquire the required academic qualifications.
The provisions are to come into force and apply to qualifications for candidates in the general elections to be held after the 2017 General Elections being August 2022 General Elections.
However, in their contribution to the petition which will be handled by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, MPs minced no words as they displayed their opposition to the request by the two petitioners.
Garissa Township Aden Duale, Robert Pukose (Endebess), David Ochieng ( Ugenya) and Kangongo Bowen (Marakwet East) stated that House should not even entertain the petition because it is an abuse to the process because suspension in the implementation of the law was meant to give sitting MPs, MCAs and aspirants alike sufficient time to upgrade their academic qualification to at least a degree.
Duale noted that holders of elective seats must be well equipped and possess academic qualifications that facilitate the exercise of the legislative, oversight and representative roles effectively.
"We cannot have people who have no basic education qualification to participate in the function of the budget making process in this House. We cannot have people who don't have requisite education qualification to interrogate the Auditor-General reports in this House," said the former Majority Leader.
On his part, Bowen added that it is impossible to have legislators who are illiterate.
"You cannot legislate when you're illiterate. At the same time we've seen in some cases where you have a law professor as a governor oversighted by illiterate MCAs. This issue we discussed in the 11th Parliament and this time we're not going to postpone it to 2027," said the Marakwet East MP.
Ochieng similarly argued that the House must deal with the matter with finality adding that the legislature should be compromised with legislators of substance who are able to interrogate members of the Executive and the Bills which are coming into the August House.
"Parliament will stand indicted if we interfere with this law. Because we have tried so many times. This time around we must put our feet down."
"Much as the petitioners have a right to bring the petition, I want to request the committee concerned that let's not waste time on this matter, there are more serious business to be looked at. IEBC has not given on how they want to do elections in the next one year," said the Ugenya MP.