I have witnessed what can be described as misplaced outrage by Kenyans online over amendments that were passed by Parliament on Wednesday night. From the reactions, one can tell that most of those throwing insults at MPs never watched the debates in Parliament and are not even aware of the laws altered leave alone the reasoning behind the amendments. Some have gone to the extent of claiming that the Constitution has been changed.
Before I even go to the reasons why I believe that two of the amendments that have created the “unnecessary outrage”, allow me to point out a disturbing habit by Kenyans. Very many Kenyans sit in comfort expecting the country to run itself or be run in any manner by a few individuals. Many do not bother to even find out what their MPs are discussing despite having the opportunity to do so even online as they “Facebook and Tweet”.
For instance, before bills are debated and tabled in Parliament, Kenyans online have the access by the simple action of searching on Google. Parliamentary Hansard are also available online and would be of help to those who jump into conclusion and mislead others when they are a misinformed by some journalist who also do not bother to counter-check their stories.
For the record, the amendment that should have allowed politicians to vie for more than one elective positions was not passed as reported in some radio stations and newspapers.
Moving on, two amendments stand out. One by Danson Mungatana that will allow Presidential candidates to be included in the nomination party lists and the other by Mutava Musyimi allowing politicians to move from their parties without losing their parliamentary or local authority seats.
I am not a lawyer but from my understanding, the amendments have aligned the Elections Act and the Political Parties Act with the Constitution. Any democrat should see the import of the amendments which to the greater end help in guaranteeing political rights of Kenyans under the Bill of Rights.
The Mungatana amendment to the Elections Act will ensure that a presidential candidate can serve Kenyans in the Senate or National Assembly as a nominated member. Mungatana ably explained the reasoning behind the amendment which not only makes sense but also is in line with Article 38 of the Constitution.
Borrowing from Mungatana’s argument, why should a loser of a presidential run off be barred from serving Kenyans even after receiving millions of votes? Wouldn’t we be trampling on the political rights of the individual and the millions of Kenyans who had voted for him?
If a party decides that it wants its presidential candidate to be on it party-list that will be used to share out nomination seats in Parliament, why should this right be taken away from it? Some argue that such a move would deny “special groups” their right to representation. But this is a rather misplaced argument since anyone can be actively involved in a party’s activities and ensure that they are on the said party-list and qualify for nomination.
Going to Mutava’s amendment, though transitional and one that seeks to avoid a mini election, should be welcomed by anyone who thinks of themselves as a democrat. Mr Mutava’s amendment is actually a good move for the country as we head to the election. Kenya cannot afford a mini-election ahead of the 2013 polls – which are already faced with a financing deficit.
In my opinion this amendment should be streamlined even to exist in the longterm. I believe that if one is in a party that fails to satisfy its ideals, then there is no reason that this person should be barred from aligning themselves to a different party. parties change their shape and ideals and if an MP sees that his/her party is not helping in his/her core mandate of representing the electorate, then the Constitution guarantees his/her freedom to make another political choice – which in this case is a party.
Who would want their MP to follow their party like a sheep when it is clear that the party does not have the interests of the electorate at heart? An MP should be able to exercise their right to represent the electorate in the right manner regardless of the party affiliation. And this is in line with Article 36 (2) which states that “A person shall not be compelled to join an association of any kind.”