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Kenya Government Says Ready To Work With New Parliament Speaker

In Kenya, embattled President Mwai Kibaki’s government says it is ready to work with the newly elected speaker of parliament (Kenneth Otiato Marende) who was sponsored by the main opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). But some political observers expressed deep reservations about the partisan nature of the election of the new speaker. They wondered whether a solution could be found to solve the escalating tension in the country after the December 27 disputed presidential elections, which the opposition claimed Kibaki rigged. Some international observers called the parliamentary election credible, but questioned the credibility of the presidential vote.

David Musila is a leading member of the ruling Party of National Unity (PNU). He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the opposition parliamentarians were playing mere politics with Tuesday’s vote.

“What happened was a simple election of the speaker and the deputy speaker. And the candidate for the opposition got 105 votes against the other one who got 102 votes. Really this is not an issue, it’s nothing and it is not significant,” Musila said.

He surmised that Tuesday’s election of the parliamentary house speaker was fraught with partisan undertones.

“The tradition here is that as far as the office of the speaker is concerned, all the time members vote on partisan lines fighting for the speaker. But I want to tell you by tradition once the speaker is elected he does not show any partisan politics. He remains impartial and you have just seen now that the first ruling, which the new speaker has made an objection for proceedings of the house by the party that, sponsored him, he over ruled them. So we have no problem, we are comfortable with the new speaker that has been elected and we have confidence in him,” he pointed out.

Musila described the opposition’s refusal to recognize President Kibaki’s election as baseless.

“That is nothing but empty politics, empty rhetoric. You know that there are laws in this country there is a constitution and it is not parliament that recognizes the president. And if any election is contested, it is decided by the court. Now what was said in court is just politics because it is nothing legal. The constitution is very clear; the presidency is not contested. If it is contested it should be contested in court. And to the best of our knowledge there is no motion in any court of law in this country that is challenging the election of President Mwai Kibaki,” Musila said.

He denied President Kibaki’s government is coercing some members of the opposition to join the ruling party’s (PNU) members of parliament.

“There is no coercing, what is there is coalition politics. Already, the government side has got enough numbers to make it a viable coalition. We have over 104 members who have joined in a coalition,” he noted.

Musila said the government would continue to pass legislation to run the affairs of the country despite opposition protest.

“I want to make it clear that this is not a parliamentary system that we have in Kenya. It is a presidential system. And it doesn’t matter how many numbers one side has, the government side has. So long as the government is able to legislate and carry on legislative work in the house, I’m sure the government will find its way of getting the necessary numbers to pass any legislation or any motions that it brings to the house,” Musila said.