MPs Wednesday defied their party leaders and skipped Parliament, forcing the postponement of a vote on the gender equity bill to next year after the House failed to raise the numbers to pass it.
The deferment followed a request by Majority Leader Aden Duale during the debate attended by opposition chiefs Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka Wednesday afternoon and hit by quorum hitch.
For the Bill to sail through, it requires two-thirds majority or at least 233 of the 349 MPs in the National Assembly.
At the beginning of the debate, 212 members were in the chambers, but a few minutes into the session, the number dropped to 207.
The hitch came despite President Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr Odinga and Mr Kalonzo rallying lawmakers to support the Bill that would ensure women one-third of seats in Parliament — or risk plunging the country into a constitutional crisis.
Court rulings since 2012 have directed Parliament to pass legislation to enforce the gender rule or risk being dissolved — but previous attempts have failed with female MPs accusing male lawmakers of deliberately blocking efforts.
If parliament is dissolved, a General Election would need to be called.
Mr Duale told Speaker Justin Muturi that the House did not have 233 members required to vote in support of the proposed law that seeks to address Kenya’s gender inequality in political representation.
Minority Leader John Mbadi supported Mr Duale’s request, saying it would give MPs time to lobby their colleagues to back the Bill.
But some MPs opposed the request, saying they had spent the whole month discussing and lobbying their colleagues to support the Bill, and that the deferment was unnecessary.
Mr Duale asked Mr Muturi to defer the Bill until such a time as the House Business Committee shall decide having consulted widely given the quorum hitch.
“I am conscious that upon proceeding to take the vote without requisite threshold of 233 MPs, we will risk losing the Bill. It will therefore imply the Bill will be republished, wait for 14 days and a further 90 days and again wait for public participation. It will take up to June 2019,” said Mr Duale.
He said if the House defers the proposed law, the National Assembly will act on the Bill by next February.
The share of women in Kenya’s Parliament is lower than its East African neighbours such as Ethiopia, South Sudan, Burundi and Rwanda, according to Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Women make up only a third of the 2.5 million people employed in the formal sector, says the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. And while women provide 80 per cent of Kenya’s farm labour, they own one per cent of agricultural land.