Kenyan lawmakers brawled Wednesday as they debated proposed changes to a law governing the conduct of political parties and the formation of coalitions ahead of the 2022 election.
Video broadcast on television showed lawmakers engaged in a shouting match and coming to blows as they fought over the measure. One member of parliament was seen with blood on his cheek. Another was suspended.
At issue is a bill that will guide political parties on how to conduct political affairs leading up to the election. If passed, the legislation would allow several parties to form a coalition and choose a presidential candidate.
Political commentator Martin Andati said those behind the bill aim to use the constitution to force a political winning formula.
“The handshake team which is the president and the former prime minister, are trying to use a political route to find a way to get people who are not supporting them to either go on their side or Ruto’s side so that they are able to draw a political strategy,” he said.
Opponents of the bill, most supporting Deputy President William Ruto, see it as a plan by President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga to force the smaller parties to merge with them to win the election.
Those against the measure introduced separate amendments, which critics say were meant to paralyze the parliamentary proceedings.
Political expert Michael Agwanda said the proposed changes mean that lawmakers will have to be loyal to their parties.
“What it means is that you are either part of government or not part of government by instrument and you cannot cross on the other side unless you just decided to do that; but you will not be part of that government if you don’t belong to the coalition that makes the government,” he said.
The proposed changes will require the parties to form a coalition four months before the election, thereby blocking them from joining another coalition party.
Agwanda said bigger parties are targeting the support of the smaller ones.
“It’s incumbent upon the political parties now to decide which coalition they want to join because that’s key to either forming the next government or not. I think they are targeting smaller parties to make serious decisions to support the big guys, they are also targeting parties like ANC, they are also targeting parties like FORD Kenya and they know very well they cannot make the next government. As a result, they are saying you either belong to us or you don’t and if you don’t, then you go to oblivion,” he said.
Kenyan politicians are fond of changing political sides to suit their interests, which analysts say has hurt the opposition.
The sponsor of the bill, Amos Kimunya, said he has asked the parliament speaker for another meeting so the legislation can be wrapped up.
“Let’s keep up the spirit because at the end of it all what we are doing is for better political party governance in this country as we deepen and widen our democracy for purposes of posterity,” he said.
The debate ended with members of parliament voting for eight proposed changes out of 27. Parliament will reconvene in January to vote.