MPs plot to change election law for candidates
Members of Parliament are today expected to reverse the Elections law and allow presidential candidates and their running mates to also run for other elective posts. While the new constitution does not expressly bar presidential candidates from vying for any other elective post in the same election, the Election Act, 2011 barred such candidates from seeking any other post. The Act provides the finer details of qualifications for one to vie for presidency.
During the deliberations on the constitutional review led by the Committee of Experts (CoE), most submissions had proposed that anyone who ran for the presidency should be disqualified from from vying for any other position. However, when this provision went to committee of Parliament for review and further discussions, the clause in the constitution that expressly barred such candidates was removed with MPs saying such legislation should be captured under the Election Act.
The initial aim of this provision was to ensure only serious presidential candidates vie and not just contenders who usually did so to increase their chances of winning a parliamentary seat. Article 137 dealing with the qualifications and disqualifications for election of the president provides that a person is qualified to vie for president if one is a citizen of Kenya by birth, qualifies to vie as a Member of Parliament, is nominated by a political party or is an independent candidate and is nominated by at least 2,000 voters from each of more than half of the counties.
The MPs have also lined up other changes to the Elections Act, 2011 which will give unsuccessful presidential candidates and their running mates a soft landing by allowing parties to nominate them to Parliament or the Senate. A successful presidential candidate will be required to relinquish the lower position if he or she is the one elected as the country’s President. A by-election will be held to fill the post left vacant in such a situation.
These are among the raft of amendments that MPs have proposed. The 'soft landing' proposal was made by Nambale MP Chrysanthus Okemo. Most of these amendments are being proposed at the final stage of the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment Bill) 2012 which was introduced in Parliament by Attorney General Githu Muigai. A miscellaneous amendment Bill is brought to the House to make changes to several laws.
Okemo's proposal introduces a new clause in the Elections Act 2011 and states: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act and for the avoidance of doubt, a person who is nominated as a candidate for election as President or Deputy President is nevertheless eligible for nomination and may contest as a candidate for any other elective seat in the same elections.”
Okemo is also behind the proposal that a successful presidential candidate or running mate relinquish one of the posts to allow for a by-election for the lesser post. The Election Act at the moment provides that presidential candidates and their running mates cannot vie for any other elective post in the same election.
It also bars political parties from including such candidates in a list of those who will be nominated to the National Assembly or Senate. Parties will be required to submit their list of those who are likely to be nominated prior to the general election. The party list is supposed to be submitted in order of priority.
Article 34 (9) provides that “The party list may not contain a name of any Presidential or Deputy Presidential candidate nominated for an election.” The MPs were planning to effect the changes yesterday but Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim postponed the matte until today. Maalim noted that the Speaker’s office had received more proposals to amend the Election Act and MPs needed more time to study them before debating them. He noted that more amendments were brought to his office as late as one hour before yesterday’s parliamentary session.
The Speaker noted that under Standing Order 116(2), no amendment can be moved to any part of a Bill by any MP unless written notification is given to the Clerk before the commencement of the sitting. He said the purpose of the standing order is to allow the necessary drafting of the amendments to be done and also to give adequate notice of the amendments to other members of the House so as to enable them to debate the amendments from a position of information. “It is therefore necessary that a reasonable time is allowed between the lodging of proposed amendments to the Office of the Clerk and the time when the House will proceed to Committee of the Whole House,” said Maalim.