Saturday, 23 March 2013

Campaigns for House positions in high gear

The 10th Parliament in session last year. Many MPs are lobbying for the available leadership positions in the 11th Parliament which opens this week. Photo/FILE  
The 10th Parliament in session last year. Many MPs are lobbying for the available leadership positions in the 11th Parliament which opens this week. Photo/FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP
Posted  Sunday, March 24  2013 at  00:30

Leaders from the Jubilee and Cord coalitions meet separately on Tuesday to work out strategies to capture key House seats ahead of the inaugural sitting of the 11th Parliament.While Jubilee politicians head to Naivasha for their first retreat after the March 4 elections, their Cord counterparts led by outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga will be holed up in a hotel in Nairobi.The parties will come up with their line-ups of candidates for Speaker, Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader and chairperson of critical committees in the Senate and National Assembly.The election of speakers and their deputies for both Houses will be held on Thursday after MPs and senators are sworn in.“On Wednesday after the retreat we will unveil our agreed candidates for various posts to carry our agenda forward,” said URP spokesman Aden Duale, the Garissa Township MP-elect.The Jubilee coalition of President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto enjoy majority in the bicameral Parliament.The coalition is built on a 50-50 power sharing deal between The National Alliance (TNA) and the United Republican Party, which will see them share key positions in Parliament and government, if their victory is upheld by the Supreme Court.In the National Assembly, the arrangement is that Mr Kenyatta’s TNA gets the Speaker while Mr Ruto’s URP produces the deputy and Majority Leader.According to the deal, URP will be given the post of Senate Speaker while a TNA senator will be picked Majority Leader.

Cord’s candidate
In Jubilee, the post of National Assembly Speaker is a hot contest between former MPs and lawyers Abdikadir Mohammed and Justin Muturi who will be pitted against Cord’s Kenneth Marende who is fighting to retain his seat.Sotik MP-elect Joyce Laboso of URP who has been a member of the Speaker’s panel is the front runner for deputy Speaker.Mr Mohammed is banking on his successful stewardship of the delicate Constitution review and implementation in the last Parliament.And on his part, Mr Muturi, a former magistrate and an ally of Mr Kenyatta, is marketing his past experience in the House where he served as party chief whip, temporary deputy Speaker and chair of watchdog committees.Mr Marende hopes to rely on his record in the 10th Parliament. “I am lobbying across the board and I am hopeful that the new House will consider my performance in the last Parliament to re-elect me,” he says.

However, Mr Mohammed’s candidature is complicated by that of Mr Duale, a URP founder member, who has laid claim to the post of Majority Leader. The two come from the same region.Mr Muturi’s supporters argue that Mr Mohammed, the outgoing Mandera Central MP, is not a member of TNA as spelt out in the coalition agreement and associates with Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani coalition.“As far as I know, Jubilee has one candidate for that seat and that is me,” declared Mr Muturi in an interview with the Sunday Nation.But Mr Mohammed says TNA is a successor to President Kibaki’s side of government for which he worked and delivered.He further argues that he was instrumental in building the short-lived Uhuru-Mudavadi alliance and ensured that the divorce was not acrimonious.“I ensured that disengagement was respectful and this was critical for future co-operation and national stability.”Mr Duale, Mr Muturi and Turkana Central’s Ekwee Ethuro who is seeking to be Senate Speaker have formed an alliance ahead of the party caucus.But the Mohammed-Muturi contest is raising concern that it might give Mr Marende advantage if the two split their support.A similar battle has emerged in the Jubilee family for the post of Senate Majority Leader involving senators-elect Kiraitu Murungi and Prof Kithure Kindiki both from the larger Meru region. Nyeri Senator-elect Mutahi Kagwe, the only Narc member of Senate, is also claiming the seat.

Amani support
The Cord Coalition, which is courting Amani with its four senators, had suggested Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula for the post. However, Amani on Saturday proposed Moyale-MP elect Roba Duba for Deputy Speaker “with the permission of Jubilee”.Outgoing House deputy Speaker Farah Maalim, who lost to Defence minister Yusuf Haji (Garissa-Senate), is lobbying for Cord support for Senate Speaker. But some Cord senators-elect have thrown their weight behind former Director of Public Prosecutions Philip Murgor who has shown interest in the seat.Mr Murgor says the first Senate under the new Constitution requires a “politically astute and an accomplished constitutional lawyer who is not a career politician”.“The wrong choice of Speaker will render the Senate still-born,” he said.Former Speaker Francis ole Kaparo, the URP chairman, Information minister Samuel Poghisio and Mr Ethuro have also declared interest in the Senate Speaker’s seat while Migori senator-elect Wilfred Machage (ODM), former ambassador Kembi Gitura (Murang’a) and Peter ole Mositet (Kajiado) are lobbying for TNA support for deputy Speaker.The race for Senate Majority leader has taken a generational angle with Prof Kindiki’s supporters, mainly MPs from Mt Kenya East and youthful senators pushing for fresh blood in Senate leadership from a coalition that fashioned itself as pro-youth and change.They also argue that the majority leader should not come from Mr Murungi’s APK, a minority party with three senators.

“I come from a majority party and my competitors from a minority. It will be difficult for a member of a small party to attract the confidence of those from the majority party because they were competitors in the election,” said Prof Kindiki, a constitutional scholar.He argues that the Jubilee manifesto has put faith in youth leadership.“A wrong impression has been created that the Senate is a retirement home for politicians who want to rehabilitate their careers and there is need to demystify it as a club of old rich people,” he argues.Prof Kindiki’s supporters are also fighting what they see as dominance of the Meru politics by what they call the “Imenti elite”.Mr Murungi is relying on his 20 years experience as an MP, 10 of them as Cabinet minister to attract support. The Energy minister says APK campaigned for Mr Kenyatta and has also reached a post-election agreement.But Prof Kindiki argues that the Senate is a new phenomenon and none of the senators-elect had experience working in it.“Considering that the younger senators will be few, we need to infuse the dynamic and focused energetic leadership into that house so it can perform its role of devolution.”

Made it known
But Prof Kindiki and Mr Murungi said they would abide by the coalition’s decision on who takes the position.Mr Duale says he expressed interest in National Assembly majority Leader seat that prefects other MPs more than a year ago and made it known to his party.“I am also friendly to most MPs across the board and appeal to youthful MPs who form the bulk of the incoming Parliament,” says the combative MP-elect.Mr Mohammed, the outgoing Safina MP, says he has an “intimate” understanding of the new Constitution having chaired more House committees than any MP in the outgoing Parliament.One of the few respected members of the 10th Parliament, Mr Mohammed is considered a consensus builder in an otherwise polarised political environment.Mr Muturi says he served as a magistrate for 17 years and an opposition chief whip in the 2002-2007 session as well as chairman of the watchdog Parliamentary Investment Committee.“Loyalty to the party is also key. I am not known to party hop. The only time I have moved parties is from Kanu to TNA,” says the Siakago politician who is the chairman of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy.Most candidates are marketing their experience in the Speaker’s panel – a team whose members act as temporally Speakers – in the lobbying.

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