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MPs may postpone voting on gender Bill, says Aden Duale

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By DAVID MWERE
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The voting by members of the National Assembly on the two-thirds gender Bill scheduled for Wednesday afternoon is likely to be postponed to allow room for lobbying.

Debate on the Bill, which seeks to amend articles 97 and 98 of the Constitution to introduce special nomination slots for women MPs to bridge the gender representation gap in Parliament, ended last Wednesday.

On Sunday, Majority leader Aden Duale, who is the mover of the Bill, said President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee party has not planned for any parliamentary group meeting to whip MPs to support the proposal.

This is because the President and his deputy William Ruto will be attending the blue economy conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) on Tuesday.

“If we see the numbers in the House are not looking good, I will seek the permission of the Speaker to have it deferred. But we are trying all we can to ensure that we get the numbers,” Mr Duale said.

About 42 new seats are required in the National Assembly to attain a third of the 349 members (117 members).

The House currently has 75 women MPs; 22 elected, 47 county women representatives and six nominated.

The Senate has 18 nominated women senators and three elected and requires about five women slots to meet the requirements of article 81 (b) of the Constitution, which provides that not more than two-thirds of appointive and elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.

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Normally before voting on a Bill of such magnitude takes place, MPs are whipped in their respective parliamentary group meetings.

For the Bill to sail through, the support of the Jubilee party, the largest party in the House, is crucial because it requires two-thirds majority or at least 233 of the 349 MPs in the National Assembly.

Failure to reach this threshold will mean that the Bill cannot progress to the next level and can only be reintroduced in the House after six months.

But even as Mr Duale spoke, Nasa leader Raila Odinga is expected to chair a Nasa parliamentary group (PG) meeting at Orange House on Tuesday morning to rally the members’ support.

Mr Odinga, who was appointed Africa Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa last month, is currently in Zimbabwe on an official function.

Minority whip in the National Assembly Junet Mohamed said the party is keen to have the Bill passed.

“I can confirm that there will be a PG to appeal to our members on the need of passing the Bill,” Mr Junet said.

However, the task of saving the Bill now lies with Mr Duale, the mover, who under Standing Order 53 (3) can request House Speaker Justin Muturi to delay putting the question for the Second Reading until such time when not less than 233 MPs will be available as required by the Constitution.

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