Parliament has approved the controversial Bill to regulate opinion polls, especially those to do with elections, the candidates in the polls and the political parties involved.
The Publication of Electoral Opinion Polls Bill, the handiwork of Dr Boni Khalwale (Ikolomani), got the nod of the House after surviving fervent calls of quorum, which dogged the proceedings in Wednesday's sitting.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto (Eldoret North) led their charges in the House in raising the numbers to defeat two attempts by John Mbadi (Gwassi), who interrupted the sitting twice as he sought to have the Bill thrown out because there were no numbers in the House.
There were 31 MPs in the House when the Bill was approved in a sitting presided over by the Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim.
Dr Khalwale, could be seen moving from row to row, persuading MPs to vote for the Bill. When the time came, he got their unanimous support as he introduced fresh amendments, including the doubling of the penalty for flouting the provisions therein.
Dr Khalwale managed to alter the Bill to raise the fine from Sh500,000 to Sh1 million.
“From consultations with the stakeholders, we were informed that opinion polling is very serious business; it is big business. They said that if we don’t enhance the punishment for breaking the law, then those who do it can ignore the law, just because they can afford the fine,” said Dr Khalwale.
The Ikolomani MP also changed the Bill so that the results of the opinion polls are not published five days to elections or even on the day of the elections.
MPs who backed the Bill, such as Mr Ruto, Aden Duale (Dujis), Charles Keter (Belgut) and Danson Mungatana (Garsen) said the motive of the Bill was to ensure that “quacks” who have been conducting the opinion polls are forced to disclose all the primary data and the methodology that they used to arrive at the conclusions.
“We want results that are scientific,” said Mr Ruto.
Mr Duale added that “fair play” at the General Election was their motive, given that the opinion polls are hugely responsible in shaping the behaviour of voters at the polls.
“We want fair play. If (Mr) Uhuru (Kenyatta) is leading in the opinion polls, then he has the win. If (Mr) Ruto is leading, then he must win. This culture of the opinion polls showing that someone is leading and then that person is defeated in the actual elections, is what led us to the post-election violence,” said Mr Duale.
Perhaps to sidestep the earlier proposal in the Bill which targeted the pollsters, Dr Khalwale revised it to target both the pollsters and the media.
The Bill requires any initial publisher of the results of an electoral opinion poll to provide sufficient information to the public including: the name of the sponsor of the opinion poll, the name of the person who conducted the opinion poll and the population sample from which the respondents were drawn.
Media houses, bloggers and other people who publish the information, the Bill added, will be obligated to provide more information in case of publication other than through broadcasting. The required information includes the wording of the opinion poll questions, the sampling methodology deployed and normalisation procedures used in deriving the results of the opinion poll.
The Bill now awaits presidential assent before it becomes law.