National Assembly leaders on Wednesday evening forced debate on the report of the select committee on electoral reforms to be postponed after MPs defied President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cord chief Raila Odinga by removing proposals on party hopping.
Majority Leader Aden Duale and his Minority counterpart Francis Nyenze successfully argued for postponement of the heated debate after realising the MPs were planning to change more parts.
Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso, who had a difficult time as MPs lobbied loudly and rebelled against the proposals, eventually agreed to push debate to the afternoon today to allow for consultations.
“You know this was a negotiated agreement so let the leadership consult,” she said, with about 35 minutes to the end of the sitting.
Asking for the postponement, Mr Duale said the House risks going against a ruling by Speaker Muturi when the motion for the creation of the committee was brought in July that it would not be changed.
Mr Duale asked Dr Laboso to state what would happen now that the Senate had passed the report unchanged and the National Assembly had removed the proposal on party hopping.
He was supported by Mr Nyenze but Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo joined MPs who had argued that the select committee went beyond its mandate by proposing changes to laws on how parties manage nominations.
“The substantive Speaker ruled that this thing is not amendable. We need to take time and see how to go about it. It is a first for us and we must find a way to deal with it,” said Mr Midiwo.
He then proceeded to tear into the committee co-chaired by senators James Orengo and Kiraitu Murungi for going beyond its mandate.
“You cannot send someone for milk and they bring sugar,” he added.
Mr Midiwo said he also supports the idea that barring party hopping would be unconstitutional.
Emurua Dikiir MP Johana Ngeno closed the argument forcefully, saying: “You cannot tell us that because your interest has been secured, this report is good.
If this document is not amended, we are going to throw it out. Now that the Senate has passed it, we’ll go to mediation and have it changed to what we want. Who are you going to consult? Oracles? This thing is not cast in stone.”
Describing the report as bound pieces of paper, Mr Ngeno said it would have to be amended.
The consultations will also centre on whether the deletion of the proposal to bar party hopping sponsored by Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch would remain.
Mr Aluoch earlier led MPs who support party hopping in recording a first victory by removing the proposal.
The heads of the coalitions in the House were quiet then as MPs, led by beneficiaries of a loophole in the law allowing candidates to change parties close to the elections, introduced the amendment.
They had worked hard to get 102 MPs to vote against a proposed postponement of the debate, which had become heated as MPs questioned the legality of the proposal they later deleted.
There is still more to be done on that front, though, as the amendment Bill is yet to be passed.
The report sailed through the Senate earlier in the day, with Mr Murungi and Mr Orengo having an easier time in getting the report adopted.
Mr Murungi said allowing party hoppers free rein would beat the purpose of party nominations.