Why Bill has sparked outrage
Posted Friday, June 22 2012 at 21:21
There is significant outrage and confusion on the amendments that Parliament enacted this week, which touch on the implementation of the Constitution.
So first it is useful to clarify what was enacted, and to do so, it is important to also identify what was not enacted.
Two proposals that would have affected aspects of the Constitution failed to meet the approval of the National Assembly and so were not enacted.
The first was a proposal to amend the Elections Act to provide that a person running for president in the next elections may simultaneously also run for any other seat, in the same elections.
This would have allowed presidential candidates to also seek election for membership of the Senate or the National Assembly or even county assemblies. However, as said, this amendment was defeated.
The second defeated amendment was a proposal to enact legislation that would have secured the recommendations made by the Treasury in the Budget to cushion MPs from the effect of taxation as a result of the new Constitution which requires that all persons pay taxes.
The Speaker had directed that these proposals were outside the province of Parliament and had directed that they should be handled by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
Parliament passed an amendment to the Elections Act requiring those seeking to be elected to Parliament or as governors of counties to possess university degrees.
Another contentious enactment was an amendment of the Political Parties Act to provide that a political party will be competent to nominate a candidate for the next elections if that candidate had been a member of the party for the preceding two months.
In doing so, the MPs cut down this period from five months.
The intention behind the original provision was to give political parties teeth to hold onto their members, even when these were unhappy with the outcome of the nomination process.
This means political re-alignments will now be possible until just before the next elections take place.
Parliament also amended the Elections Act to provide that in the lists of candidates presented for nomination to the 12 special seats in the National Assembly, political parties would be free to include names of their presidential candidates
The opportunistic intentions behind this amendment are self-evident. First, it is absurd for a person who wants to be taken seriously as presidential candidate to hedge by also presenting himself for nomination to the Legislature.
Also, this amendment is of doubtful constitutional legitimacy given the fact that the 12 seats are reserved for special interest groups, such as persons with disabilities, the youth or the marginalised.
There are other amendments made as part of the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, which have not caught as much public attention but which are of some importance.
One of them is an amendment to the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act, which extends the life of the vetting board by one year, freeing it to resume its work which stalled when its term expired.
The amendment also clarifies that judges who are dissatisfied with the decision of the vetting board removing them from office may appeal to the same board which has a duty to hear them immediately.