Since the 11th Parliament was sworn into office, the opposition has proved to be rudderless and tactless in keeping the ruling coalition in check. While they are outnumbered by the Jubilee coalition, CORD has not shown that even with fewer members, they can still contribute qualitatively to enriching the August House.
This has been most vivid in the National Assembly which undertakes national functions. In the House, it only fiercely fought to chair the Public Investments Committee (PIC) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Even from these committees, nothing concrete has come out to prove that they are aware of their responsibilities and are undertaking them diligently.
The Constitution birthed a pure presidential system. This system bequeaths the legislature not only independence but also a core role in representing people’s interests in the House especially because it is detached from the executive.
The Opposition’s tactlessness has been seen in their continuous walkouts from debates. Last week, they walked out of the National Assembly to paralyze the approval of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s memorandum on the Excise Duty Bill, 2015 arguing that the sh10 tax per litre of fruit juices will make the commodity too expensive for the poor in the country to whom juice is already a luxury. But the walkout did not stop the Jubilee lawmakers from approving the memorandum which passed with just a simple majority.
In May this year, they also walked out over the tussle between Cord and Jubilee coalitions over the formation of the Public Accounts and the Public Investments committees. Again in September 2013, the MPs stormed out of early stages of the special sitting that had been convened to discuss Adan Duale’s motion that sought to withdraw Kenya’s membership at the International Criminal Court.
The opposition has also been discredited by graft claims which have raised concerns on the coalition’s commitment to offer alternative solutions to the myriad problems facing Kenyans. One would remember well the corruption and bribery allegations which involved MPs in the PAC and Agriculture committees.
One issue which has stood out has been competing interests among the Opposition coalition members. This has rendered them incapable of having a common ground on issues of public interest. Their members seem to be more concerned about the 2017 elections.
The tyranny of numbers that Jubilee enjoys mean that the best way CORD would have their voice heard is to be instructively vocal with quality arguments that offer alternative solutions or propositions on issues. For instance, on the Excise Duty Bill, 2015, they ought to have produced evidence of numbers indicating how exactly the poor will be affected.
Kenyans will also remember how CORD MPs conducted themselves when arguing against the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014. While they failed to get their way, they moved to court where their voice was heard and determined, to their favor and that of Kenyans in general.
Corruption and the current financial crunch affecting the country could have been better handled by the opposition taking its role robustly in Parliament. It needs to realize that three years into office, they are yet to record tangible contributions and they need to wake up.