Tuesday, December 16, 2008



December 16 2008

Parliament changes the Constitution to disband ECK after intense lobbying
Parliament on Tuesday disbanded the Electoral Commission of Kenya, sending home its chairman, Mr Samuel Kivuitu, and his team of 21 commissioners.

169 MPs passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill (2008) which also replaced the ECK with an Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC).
Parliament only needed 145 MPs to pass the law. No MPs voted against the amendment and none abstained. Fifty-three MPs were absent.

Later, 174 MPs voted to push the Bill through the third and final stage. It now awaits the President’s signature to become law.

The Bill, which amends Section 47 of the Constitution also provides for a referendum law and establishes an interim Constitutional Court to preside over disputes that are likely to arise from the review process.

The interim commission has the mandate to carry out wide ranging electoral reforms, register voters afresh and install new systems of tallying votes to ensure that elections are free, fair and credible.

The House has already passed the Constitution of Kenya Review Bill, which outlines the road to a new Constitution. President Kibaki has already signed it into law.

Moving the motion to disband ECK on Tuesday, Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua said the Government was putting in place the interim commission to restore the confidence of Kenyans in the electoral system as recommended by the Kriegler report on last year’s disputed presidential elections.

The passing of the Bill was the result of consultations and intense lobbying by the President and the Prime Minister who were seeking the support of MPs to obtain the 145-member threshold required to change the Constitution. Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim presided over the vote.

Ms Millie Odhiambo (nominated, ODM) said Kenya would be a better place if Parliament stayed focused on the reform agenda.
She called for a balanced Parliamentary Select Committee which will ensure equitable gender and regional representation. The committee will nominate the nine new members who will become the IIECK commissioners.

Prof Margaret Kamar (Eldoret East, ODM) said the committee should come up with modalities to ensure that both the process and the content of the Bill remained beyond reproach.

Mr Eugene Wamalwa (Saboti) called for a review of constituency boundaries, saying some constituencies were being shortchanged.

It is after Mr Wamalwa spoke that Agriculture minister William Ruto stood and asked that the debate be cut short for the voting to start. He was supported by Local Government assistant minister Robinson Githae.

The results were 169 in favour and none opposed. The vote effectively set in motion the stalled constitutional review process. Both President Kibaki and PM Odinga had promised to ensure that a new Constitution is enacted by April next year.

With Tuesday’s vote, MPs also entrenched the review process in the Constitution and cleared the way for a new supreme law that the country has been trying to write for the last two decades.

While they were unanimous that ECK chairman Samuel Kivuitu and his team must pack their bags and leave their office at Anniversary Towers, the MPs criticised themselves, security forces and the media for the violence that rocked the country early this year.

However, Cabinet minister Mutula Kilonzo and Kipipiri MP Amos Kimunya demanded a process of identifying the villains in the commission so that those who were innocent could be set free and be well compensated.
The passage of the Bill was preceded by 15 minutes of informal talks, known as the Speakers’ Kamukunji, that struck consensus among members in the presence of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga.

Members were taken through a rigorous exercise of a division of the House to pass the Constitutional amendment Bill which required the presence of at least 145 MPs in the chamber. Speaker Kenneth Marende took them through the process at 3.40pm before they started debate on the Bill.

Kriegler report

“A lot of people are asking why the ECK when the Kriegler report indicted everybody including the political class. There is an urgent need to have a new electoral body because if an election comes now, we will need an electoral body that Kenyans have confidence in,” said Ms Karua as she moved the motion.

She described the Bill as a product of a long consultative process and highlighted the amendments that had been included in the Bill following recommendations by MPs.

Lands minister James Orengo seconded the Bill, saying the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission (IIBRC) that was being established will ensure equal representation in Parliament and works towards eliminating imbalance in the allocation of development resources.

He said that by anchoring the review process in the Constitution, MPs were giving a cushion from saboteurs who may use legal means to stall it.

“By passing this Bill, Kenya is beginning a new journey to rise from the ashes to become a truly democratic country,” he said.

Mandera Central MP Mohamed Abdikadir (Safina) said it was critical for the House to pass the Bill that will replace the ECK because Kenyans want a new electoral body to supervise the referendum on a new Constitution.

Foreign minister Moses Wetang’ula said: “By passing this Bill, the curtain has come down on the ECK”. He said members of the select committee that will pick new commissioners should not be guided by tribalism and party affiliations.

Nairobi Metropolitan Development minister Mutula Kilonzo said Parliament should provide for a way of compensating the ECK members who still had years to serve on their terms. “Although it may sound unpopular, we cannot remain silent on the remainder of terms for some commissioners. It is a matter that we cannot sweep under the carpet,” he said.

Politicians to blame
Mr Kimunya said politicians were also to blame and argued that passage of the Bill was not wholly condemning the ECK. He urged the Government to come up with a way of finding out those who were guilty and those who were innocent.

“At one time we will have to find out who were guilty and those who are innocent. This is because we (politicians) are part of the problem,” he said and warned that suspicions over the composition of the select committee may negatively affect the new team from the beginning.

Submitted by solomon07
Posted December 16, 2008 11:41 PM

The MPs are quick to pass bills which don't touch on them at any nick, but when a bill touches on their taxes... they are quick to make noise almost bringing peace to chaos. Shame on our Waheshimiwa!

Submitted by MichaOlga
Posted December 16, 2008 11:38 PM

It's about time! What was all the time wasted for? Ai! Kenyans!