National outrage broke out on Thursday after MPs diluted laws designed to discourage party-hopping and set high thresholds for qualification to elective office in accord with the new Constitution.
The Commission for implementation of the Constitution petitioned President Kibaki to reject the amendments, while lawyers and civil society groups vowed to challenge the amendments in court and to organise public protests.
MPs had gone into an unusual late session on Wednesday to amend the Elections Act and the Political Parties Act, creating windows to allow persons without higher education to vie for political office.
They also relaxed the provisions barring MPs from defecting from one party to another.
CIC chairman Charles Nyachae, Law Society of Kenya chairman Erick Mutua and International Centre for Peace and Conflict chairman Ndung’u Wainaina argued that MPs had embarked on a journey to mutilate a Constitution that is less than two years old.
Mr Nyachae said his team had petitioned the President to decline to sign the amendments into law.
“We have written to the President pointing out the unconstitutional things and urge him not to assent to them. These amendments are not in the interest of the people of Kenya,” he said.
He said that the commission would seek court intervention to declare the changes unconstitutional if the president gives them assent.
“They are aimed to serve the personal interests of the current MPs which is in direct contravention of Article 16 of the Constitution,” he said.
He also asked Kenyans to rise up and defend their constitution from mutilation by the Legislature.
Mr Mutua concurred that the amendments were illegal. “MPs are engaging in a self-serving mission. We see these amendments as an illegality and a move by Parliament to circumvent the provisions of the constitution which deal with leadership and integrity,” he said in a statement
“We wish to point out that we shall proceed to court to challenge those unconstitutional amendments. We want to urge the public to ignore any unconstitutional law,” he said.
The LSK boss added that lawyers no longer had confidence that MPs will enact laws which are meant to ensure that only persons of integrity are elected to hold political office.
“With what has happened we have no faith that the expected legislation under Chapter Six will accord with the letter and spirit of that chapter,” he said.
Lawyers Atsango Chesoni, Harun Ndubi, George Kegoro, Grace Maingi and activist Ngunjiri Wambugu threatened to move to court to reverse the amendments.
Speaking at the Kenya Human Rights Commission offices in Nairobi, the group further vowed to hold demonstrations countrywide.
Mr Wainaina described the amendments as archaic and retrogressive. “We hope that Judiciary will exercise its judicial authority and powers to review this anti-people amendments and also curtail excesses of Executive and Parliament,” he said.
Saying that MPs had “shamelessly disrespected” Kenyans, he urged the public to collect signatures to file a petition for the dissolution of the coalition government.
Meanwhile, MPs for the second day running continued to make changes to the laws through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill, 2012.
With the amendments to section 14 of the Political Parties Act, MPs and councillors will freely form and join new political parties, while still holding on to their seats.
Also, losing presidential candidates now have a window to get back to leadership through nomination to Parliament or to the Senate.
An amendment suggested by the Narc Kenya MP for Garsen Danson Mungatana overturned the law against losing candidates finding their way back to the legislature.
However, the House rejected a move by Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto to allow presidential candidates and their running mates to at the same time contest other elective seats.
Mr Ruto, an ODM MP who has moved to the United Republican Party led by presidential aspirant William Ruto, proposed that the presidential candidate and the deputy clinch the top seat, they forfeit the lesser positions and occasion a by-election.
The contentious amendments to allow defections proposed by Gachoka MP Mutava Musyimi were approved during an acrimonious debate pitting mainly ODM MPs who vehemently opposed against the party’s rebel MPs now in URP and their counterparts allied to the PNU alliance.
Similar Amendments to those of Rev Musyimi, a PNU MP and a presidential hopeful on a Democratic Party ticket, had also been suggested by Siakago MP Lenny Kivuti (Safina).
Rev Musyimi’s amendments were opposed by Narc Kenya presidential aspirant Martha Karua and MPs Ababu Namwamba, John Mbadi, and Millie Odhiambo; while Mr Adan Duale and assistant minister Peter Munya supported.
Rev Musyimi argued proposed the changes by the reality that the country was in a transition “and transitions are not easy.”
However, Ms Karua opposed the changes vehemently, described the move as a “great shame”.
Coalition Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo accused those seeking to amend the elections laws of killing democracy. “I am opposing the amendment knowing that the people who are used to indiscipline shall win. This country is a democracy and there cannot be a thriving democracy where there is no political party discipline.”
But assistant minister Munya, the PNU for Tigania East, said restricting people to parties they were no longer keen on was an infringement of their rights and freedom of association.
Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba read to the House a letter from the CIC chairman Mr Nyachae informing House Speaker Kenneth Marende that the amendments were unconstitutional and would be fought in court.
Mandera Central MP Abdikadir Mohammed, who chairs Parliaments Committee on Implementation of the Constitution (CIOC) dismissed Mr Nyache’s assertions, saying it was not the responsibility of CIC to supervise Parliament.
—Reports by Njeri Rugene, Bernard Namunane, Emeka Mayaka and Lucas Barasa