The opposition — which had pledged to take to the streets to protest manual voting backup — is facing a testing moment and weighing its options after a massive setback when the Senate approved the controversial backup system.
Cord says manual backup for registration and results transmission will be used to rig and steal the election.
“This is now a crisis … We will respond to this betrayal of the people comprehensively, decisively and firmly,” opposition leaders said in a statement on Friday following the Thursday night Senate vote. Jubilee pushed through all amendments that watered down earlier laws.
Next Wednesday Cord will convene a major meeting at the Bomas of Kenya to decide its next move. It will include all opposition governors and other elected leaders and aspirants.
The opposition’s credibility is at stake and perhaps formation of a united National Super Alliance, NASA, to face Jubilee.
Will the opposition back down from mass action it had promised? It made the pledge on December 22 after the National Assembly bulldozed through a manual backup of voter identification and results transmission.
The protests were to start Wednesday (January 4) but were suspended until the Senate held hearings and voted.
Cord co-principal Moses Wetang’ula said on Friday that Cord and other opposition parties will mount a challenge to invalidate the Senate “vote that was rigged by the speaker and his co-conspirators”.
He said the opposition would use “legal and extra-legal steps to restore sanity in the country.” He did not elaborate.
“The only option for Cord is to prosecute this case on the streets,” University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora told the Star on Friday. He expects legal action as well.
“But again, as in earlier anti-IEBC protests, people will die. There is going to be violence. Blood will be spilt. There will be lots of suffering and loss of property.”
It is unfortunate to be on the streets again because the whole country is disappointed by the Senate, he said.
He said the electoral laws standoff and likely demonstrations could be a way of postponing the election scheduled for August 8.
Manyora said, however, the controversial laws may not see the light of day because they could be overturned in court. Various issues include irregular voting in the Senate and questions about the manner in which the laws were pushed through in both chambers.
The opposition could take to the streets and sue in the courts. It successfully forced removal of the IEBC but at least five people were killed and there was major property damage.
“At this Wednesday meeting a critical decision will be taken and communicated to all Kenyans on our plans to deal with this betrayal of the people by Jubilee and ensure free, fair, transparent and credible elections in August,” Wiper leader and Cord co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka said on Friday.
The opposition statement was signed by Raila Odinga, Kalonzo, Wetang’ula and Cyrus Jirongo.
The amendments passed in the Senate amid acrimony.
It emerged the Senate had undermined its own powers by approving amendments excluding it from boundary review and removing other powers. The National Assembly’s powers were expanded.
Kalonzo and Wetang’ula specifically accused Senate speaker Ekwee Ethuro of being used to push the Jubilee agenda.
“This [the election laws] was a negotiated document and there was not supposed to be an additional coma or a full stop beyond what was actually agreed so this country would know a free, fair predictable election,” Kalonzo said at the Cord secretariat.
“What happened in the Senate was child play. If you rig elections at the Senate level, what will happen in the August elections?” he he asked.
Bungoma Senator Wetang’ula said Ethuro had allowed an ineligible Senator (Hosea Onchwang’i) to vote on behalf of Kisii Senator Chris Obure, leader of the delegation.
Nominated Senator Naisula Lesuuda from Samburu was allowed to vote in a similar manner.
“We indict our speaker and we are going to take necessary legal action to redress this. It is a sad day for the country when the speaker of the upper house, the house of reference, the House of reason, the House of revision, rigs an election because he is conducting the business not as the speaker of the house but a representative of the Jubilee regime in the Senate,” Wetang’ula said.
Senators appeared to have hurt their own best interests when they overwhelmingly passed a controversial electoral law that would in effect water down its already diminished legislative and oversight role.
Senators have always said there’s a plot to undermine its role. At one time it had campaigned for the Senate to be the Upper House.
“The proposal to exclude the Senate from the review of boundaries is an assault to the Senate, an affront to the Constitution and an unacceptable attempt to further undermine devolution. The Senate must therefore delete clause 32 from the Bill,” the Minority report on the amendments say.
Surprisingly, a number of Jubilee senators who spoke to the Star in confidence described the passage of the laws as regrettable. “A gun was put to our heads,” said one.
“We were in a fix, we saw some dangers and loopholes in the Bill, but we were under pressure to pass them as they were,” a senator who sought anonymity said.
Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o said the Senate was “committing suicide” by failing to thoroughly interrogate all the amendments.
“How can the Senate in its common sense allow itself to be subjected to such a travesty “Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr asked.
The amendments also give the National Assembly exclusive right to approve regulations on ow prisoners and Kenyans in the diaspora should vote.