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Cablegate: Parliament Elects Speaker--A Good Day for Kenya

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RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 5702
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 5027
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UNCLAS NAIROBI 000185

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KE
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT ELECTS SPEAKER--A GOOD DAY FOR KENYA


SUMMARY
-------

1. On January 15 Kenya's Tenth Parliament sat for its first
session. In a boisterous but mostly civil session,
Parliament elected the Orange Democratic Movement's (ODM)
Kenneth Marende as Speaker. ODM's candidate for Deputy
Speaker was also elected, again beating a PNU candidate.
This event has the potential to change the political dynamics
in Kenya. Going into the session there was a strong
presumption that PNU would buy support of ODM MPs elect,
potentially further embittering ODM supporters. That ODM took
the top two positions in the parliament is a great boost to
its political fortunes and gives it leverage over PNU as
Kenya seeks to break its political stalemate. After his
election, Speaker Marende stated that PNU would need to
consider a coalition government if it wanted to accomplish
its legislative agenda. Marende's election - and his
impressive performance on several tricky points of order,
where he (rightly) ruled against his ODM colleagues - is a
positive step and is likely to encourage dialog between the
two sides that would involve powersharing, a joint
legislative agenda for institutional reform, and mutual
efforts to stop the violence afflicting Kenya. We will
continue to push for such a solution. Importantly, Kenyan
media pressured the government into allowing live broadcast
of the session, somewhat reducing tensions among the public
which closely followed the highly-anticipated proceedings.
END SUMMARY

2. The PNU faction entered the chamber early and sat on the
government's side of the hall, neutralizing ODM's threat to
assume the government's side in protest of the presidential
election results. ODM MPs attended the session despite
contesting the legitimacy of President Kibaki's election,
arguing that it could not allow PNU to gain leadership of
parliament by default. When President Kibaki entered the
chamber, ODM broke with tradition and refused to stand in
recognition of his status. When Raila Odinga made his
entrance, ODM MPs rose, stomped their feet, and chanted, "the
People's President". This was the first time that Kibaki and
Raila Odinga were in the same room, although each ignored the
other's presence. During the marathon session, President
Kibaki sat impassively, though he appeared hale and firm
afoot.

3. The first order of business was electing the Speaker. To
be elected as Speaker on the first or second ballot, a
candidate needs a two-thirds majority (of the total number of
seats: 222, even though only 207 members have been elected
and the 12 nominated MPs have not yet been named). If no
candidate obtains the required majority on the first two
ballots, the top two vote-getters proceed to a third ballot,
after which a Speaker may be elected with a simple majority.
Four candidates completed the necessary paperwork to stand
for Speaker, but there were only two serious candidates: the
PNU-sponsored incumbent Speaker Francis Kaparo and ODM's
MP-elect Peter Marende. With the balance of power within
parliament so tightly drawn (analysis of parliamentary
election results in septel), the race was expected to be
close and no one expected an outcome until the third ballot.
There was a presumption that PNU would attempt to buy some
ODM MPs to re-elect Kaparo, further alienating ODM
supporters, but this apparently did not happen.

4. When voting began, ODM MPs contested the Clerk's
interpretation of the Standing Orders (rules of procedure) to
require a secret ballot by showing their completed ballot
papers to their colleagues before placing it in the ballot
box. PNU objected and an hour long debate on secret ballots
ensured. Ultimately Attorney General Amos Wako's
interpretation that Commonwealth parliamentary practice is to
elect a Speaker by secret ballot broke the deadlock. Having
made its point, ODM withdrew its objection and voting was
restarted.

5. As expected, no candidate received the necessary
two-thirds majority on the first or second ballot, which
showed support for Marende and Kaparo nearly even. On the
first ballot Marende polled 104, Kaparo 99. On the second
ballot Marende polled 104 to Kaparo's 102. On the third and
decisive ballot, Marende polled 105 votes to Kaparo's 101,
with one invalid vote. When the Clerk announced Marende's
election, there was elation, cheers, and a round of
backslapping on the ODM side. The announcement also palpably
reduced tensions in the hall.

6. Marende was sworn in immediately and presided over the
rest of the session. Having taken six hours to elect the
Speaker, the MPs were anxious to conclude the session. Thus,
the election of the Deputy Speaker proceeded relatively
quickly, with the ODM candidate Farah Maalim defeating PNU's
Gitobu Imanyara. As he was preparing to preside over the
swearing of the MPs' oath of office, ODM objected to the
order of the oath (which would have President Kibaki take the
oath first) and the form of the oath, which requires each MP
to swear allegiance to the President (although not by name).
ODM argued that, under the Constitution, sovereignty lies in
the people not the president and called the oath in this form
unconstitutional. Marende showed himself a quick study. After
furious arguments on both sides, he ruled that he would swear
Kibaki in first, as MP from Othaya, following the order on
the list prepared by the Clerk. On the second pointed, he
decided that the oath in its current form is contained in an
Act of Parliament and he was bound to administer it as
currently written. He advised Parliament that if they wished
to change the form of the oath, they would need to be sworn
in first and then address the issue in a future session.
Marende's initial rulings were made in a calm, deliberative
manner. The fact that his rulings favored PNU is a good
start to establishing himself as an even-handed Speaker.

COMMENT
-------

7. While the post-electoral crisis is far from over, the
election of Marende as speaker is a positive step that
encourages dialog between the two sides. ODM now has control
of Parliament and thus more leverage for dialog. The impact
of the live broadcast (and transparency in government) on a
wary Kenyan public should not be underestimated. Marende's
election will present an opportunity for institutional
reform, which we will pursue to strenghten Parliament as an
effective counterweight to the historically dominant
executive branch. END COMMENT
RANNEBERGER

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