Emuhaya MP-elect Kenneth Marende (right) is sworn is as Speaker of the 10th Parliament by National Assembly Clerk Samuel Ndindiri after he defeated Mr Francis Kaparo by 105 votes to 101 during third round of balloting. Photo/PETERSON GITHAIGA (NMG)
The newly elected speaker of the national assembly Hon Kenneth Marende last night survived a baptism of fire. Or so it seems?
Close political observers who have followed Marende's political career since his days as an advocate to an Rainbow/LDP activist and finally as rookie NARC MP for Emuhaya in the 9th parliament agree that Marende has what can be called smooth political career. This is mostly attributed to two facts. The first is that Marende publicly shunned spirited attempts by Kijana Wamalwa and Musikari Kombo to lure him to FORD-K when the party was being touted as the party to unite all Luhya's after Musalia Mudavadi re-defected back to KANU. Marende's second luck seem to stem from another angle. His close relationship with Musalia Mudavadi who incidently enjoys even closer relations with ODM kingpin Raila Odinga have also worked in Marende's favour.
The questions that quickly comes to mind is: Why did the ODM pentagon back the nomination of Marende, already an MP-elect, as Speaker ahead of other worthy and highly experienced candidates who had also expressed an interest within ODM like Martin Shikuku and Oloo Aringo? In a national assembly where close numbers will determine the direction of most business, it is telling that ODM sacrificed one of their own, and a rookie at that, to be elected Speaker of the house and in the process automatically relinquish his parliamentary seat. Indeed, Speaker Marende did not participate in the voting of Farah Maalim (also nominated by ODM) as Deputy Speaker, which means ODM have already lost one vote.
As thrilling events unraveled in parliament late into this morning, another critical unanswered question that kept coming up was that what (if any) agreement did the ODM pentagon have with the new Speaker? The answer may be found in an interview ODM pentagon member Najib Balala had with foreign media a day before the Speaker's election. Balala said: "With PNU 'controlling' the executive and judiciary arms of government, the ODM will 'control' the legislative arm and use it to reclaim what was stolen from the people of Kenya." As if to confirm this, the new Speaker himself in his inaugural speech indicated that "parliament must be taken back to the people." Does the Balala's prophecy spell doom for PNU and its affiliates now that the Speaker and his deputy originate from ODM stables? Incidentally, Balala swore his allegiance to the presidency (urais in swahili) rather than the president (rais). Raila on the other hand, swore his allegiance to "the country of Kenya."
It took the Speaker's ruling to stop the PNU further embarrassment from a barrage of loaded Points of Order by lawyers Orengo, Namwamba and Nyongo as regards the "open" secret balloting as well as the oath of allegiance. Opinion is divided but the entire PNU side led by Kalonzo Musyoka all seemed content hiding behind the wits (skirt?) of Gichugu MP Martha Karua. At one point, President Mwai Kibaki seemed ready to give up and walk out of the chambers after enduring a barrage of scathing attacks from Orengo, Namwamba, Ruto and Nyongo. It took several comforting handshakes from ministers Karua, Michuki and Wetangula for Kibaki to recover his composure.
At one point, before the election of the speaker, Kalonzo said: "We cannot participate in a flawed process in front of international media. Proceedings should be adjourned altogether." Nyongo retorted: "You (Kalonzo) accepted being a Vice-President in a flawed process. Stop being involved in contradictions. Be clear in your mind!" What a blast! It took Kalonzo at least four hours to recover and stand up to "empty" talk on another point of order. Empty because he had attempted to lecture the house on the need to uphold "traditions" but then again Nyongo silenced poor Kalonzo by asking where he was when the former president and MP for Othaya did not "respect tradition" when appointing ECK commissioners in total disregard to IPPG agreements of 1997! Luckily for Kalonzo, Martha Karua was always coming to the rescue of the Leader of Government Business.
Kenya's parliament is in for interesting times. Meanwhile ODM's press conference this morning will give the general direction which the party will embark on.
Watch this space!