Kenya: New battle brewing as Ruto and Raila claim majority in parliament

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Wednesday, 21 September 2022 12:28

Kenya's President William Ruto and former prime minister Raila Odinga (photo: TAR)

The battle has intensified between William Ruto and Raila Odinga after Kenya's top coalition parties picked their majority leaders to preside in the National Assembly, ahead of the first official sitting in a few weeks. No side is willing to remain in the minority.

President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza has named Kikuyu MP Kimani as its House leader. He is to be deputised by his Kilifi North counterpart Owen Baya.

Raila’s Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition has settled on Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi as its majority leader and Kathiani MP Robert Mbui as his deputy.

Speaking to members in his coalition, President Ruto has maintained that he commands the majority in the National Assembly and Senate. According to him, he has the numbers since his side won the Speaker position in both Houses.

“I have heard them [Odinga’s coalition] try to say they have some numbers. If you cannot even raise a candidate for the Speaker of the Senate what numbers do you really have?” he said to Kenya Kwanza lawmakers during a coalition retreat.

 

A week ago, Ruto’s candidate, Moses Wetangula, won the National Assembly Speaker’s race against Raila’s ally Kenneth Marende. In the Senate race, Azimio la Umoja did not participate citing fraud during the election process.

On the other hand, Martha Karua, who was Raila’s running mate in the August polls, maintains that her coalition is the majority party, and thus deserves to lead the House business.

“We are the largest party in Parliament, we deserve to have the majority leader ,” she told the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition parliamentary group meeting.

Kalonzo Musyoka, another coalition leader, echoed Karua’s sentiments saying: “For the avoidance of doubt the AZIMIO-OKA coalition party is legally and legitimately the majority coalition in the National Assembly.”

But who has the majority ?

Raila’s coalition, according to the results of the 9 August polls, has a slim majority of 173 seats over Ruto’s coalition that has 164 MPs. There are 12 lawmakers who are independents, in a House that has a total of 349 elected representatives.

However, after Ruto was declared winner of the presidential race, lawmakers from Azimio affiliated parties, which include, UDM, PAA, MCC and MDG, defected to Kenya Kwanza and signed a post election agreement.

With these defections, Ruto’s side now has 175 members, while Raila’s side has 162, even though the signed agreement is not legally binding. According to the Political Parties Act of 2011, a political party can only enter into a new coalition agreement after formally exiting an existing one.

The fight between the two coalitions is aimed at taking control of Parliamentary business as this is what shapes policies and critical decisions that affect Kenyan citizens in terms of economy, health, education, trade, among others.

Who will solve this stalemate ?

With both sides standing their ground, Wetangula, who is from Ruto’s coalition, has a duty – as National Assembly Speaker – to determine which side has a majority.

Wetangula, who met both leaders, says although he is a member of the Kenya Kwanza coalition, he will arbitrate on the matter fairly.

“I’m an impartial arbiter. I will provide direction on the matter,” he said.

Political analyst Brian Wanyama says the Speaker’s decision will be a litmus test to show his skills on how best he can make determinations on delicate matters of national importance as the leader of the legislative army.

“ The Speaker must be wise, Kenyans are watching to see how he will decide,” he tells The Africa Report.

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