Report by standard
Lawmakers have hatched a secret scheme to frustrate the Punguza Mizigo Bill that seeks to reduce their number from 416 to 147, The Standard can reveal. It has emerged that MPs are plotting to exploit a loophole in the Constitution by ‘sitting’ on the Bill should it get the backing of at least 24 county assemblies as required for it to be submitted to Parliament.
Article 257 of the Constitution that provides for the popular initiative path does not give timelines within which Parliament should introduce the Bill, handing lawmakers a lethal weapon against the initiative.
“If a county assembly approves the draft Bill within three months after the date it was submitted by the Commission, the speaker of the county assembly shall deliver a copy of the draft Bill jointly to the speakers of the two Houses of Parliament, with a certificate that the county assembly has approved it.
“If a draft Bill has been approved by a majority of the county assemblies, it shall be introduced in Parliament without delay,” reads the Article. Several MPs disclosed that they may decide to exploit the loophole in a protest against the Ekuru Aukot-led Thirdway Alliance for allegedly not engaging stakeholders in coming up with the Bill.
Political pressure The Punguza Mizigo Bill, which also proposes a single seven-year presidential term and installs Senate as the upper house, however, was backed by 1.2 million voters — more than the 1 million needed for the electoral commission to submit the draft Bill to county assemblies.
At the heart of the plot is a bid by MPs to protect President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which is expected to come up with a Bill for a referendum.
Raila has expressly asked his supporters to ignore the Punguza Mizigo Bill, and yesterday the Siaya county assembly rejected it after members approved a Justice Committee report that recommended its rejection (see separate story). Jubilee, through Secretary General Raphael Tuju, has said the ruling party was for the BBI, giving the strongest indication that the two main parties may use their numerical strengths in both county assemblies and Parliament to frustrate the passage of the Bill.
Lawyer Nzamba Kitonga – who chaired the committee of experts that wrote the 2010 Constitution – yesterday said the drafters of the law did not provide specific timelines because “it was envisaged that Parliament at some point will be on recess”. Mr Nzamba, however, said MPs are expected to give such a Bill priority and introduce it as soon as practically possible. Constitutional lawyer Bobi Mkangi, who was also a member of the committee, concurred that Parliament can exploit the loophole to frustrate the Bill.