Several lawmakers are this afternoon expected to find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place as the controversial Finance Bill enters the crucial voting stage where they have to make the final decision.

With President William Ruto using all means, including threats and charm offensive to ensure that the Bill that seeks to introduce a raft of controversial tax measures sails through, while on the other, public anger piling against those perceived to support the proposed law, MPs find themselves in a catch 22 situation on which way to vote.

The President and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua have publicly warned MPs who will reject the Bill to forget development projects in their areas.

On the other hand, there has been discernible public anger against legislators who have shown support for the Bill, with some voters in certain areas warning the MPs to ready themselves for reprisal.

While some of the MPs says they have already made up their minds on how they will vote just as they did during the Second Reading stage, others particularly those who had initially opposed the bill remained non-committal ahead of the crucial vote today.

The MPs’ dilemma came even as both the Kenya Kwanza side led by President Ruto and its Azimio La Umoja counterpart led by Raila Odinga were engaged in a last- minute lobbying ahead of the vote.

While MPs from the government side had been given clear instructions to support the Bill, those from the opposition side have been directed to introduce obstacles at every stage when voting commences today in a bid to push their colleagues from the Kenya Kwanza side to heed to their plea. The Opposition is said to have adopted the strategy out of fear over its low numerical strength in the house.

In Raila’s camp, a communication has been made to the house leadership to keenly monitor their members during the voting exercise after some of them skipped last Wednesday session that saw the bill sail through to the third reading after 176 MPs from the Kenya Kwanza side voted in support of the bill against 81 votes.

Already, ODM has commenced disciplinary proceedings for MPs who defied the party’s stand on the Bill.

ODM said the Party is in receipt of many complaints from its general membership regarding the conduct of its MPs during Wednesday’s vote on the Finance Bill, 2023.

An MP from the opposition side who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter confirmed they will be monitoring their members even as he disclosed that they have come up with a number of strategies they hope to introduce when voting commences.

Part of the strategies include introducing as many amendments as possible, causing a division at every debate where each MP would be forced to take a vote on every clause of the Bill as opposed to voting by acclamation as well as walking out of the chamber should the government side fail to listen to them.

Despite the threats

“We have told our members that we are watching them. They should reject this bill in totality. Wait until tomorrow you will see what will happen,” said the MP.

But despite the threats, a section of the ODM rebel MPs have already declared they will support the bill.

Yesterday, some of the MPs in the Opposition, now branded renegade, reacted furiously against the profiling and threats coming from the Orange party.

Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda who supported the Bill during the Second Reading stage said he would be guided by his conscience. “It was out of my own conscience that I voted yes. Today, when the Bill comes for the Third Reading again, I will vote Yes or No as per my own conviction,” he said.

The lawmaker said he would not be cajoled or subdued to vote Yes or No unless he is fully convinced that what he is voting for or against is tangible and meaningful.

“Today, they will table the proposed amendments to the floor of the House. There are about 89 clauses which we will be scrutinising on individual merit,’’ said Ochanda

Ochanda said he will make decisions on each of the 89 clauses that would be tabled.

Rongo MP Paul Abuor who echoed Ochanda’s sentiments said he supports all the amendments as proposed by the committee on Finance and Planning.

“The Third Reading is largely going to dwell on reducing the proposed taxes on Content creation and Housing Levy capped from 3 to 1.5 percent among others,’’ Abuor said

He added, “I am going to definitely vote yes, if the proposed reduction on taxes levied on Housing and Content creation is reduced.”

But Nyamira county senator Okongo Omogeni who is also in ODM asked Kenyans to blacklist and reject MPs who will support the bill in the next elections.

Speaking during the burial of Mama Billiah Arita at Gesiaga village in West Mugirango on Sunday, the senator said it was unfortunate that legislators who are supposed to defend and protect the interests of their voters particularly on issues touching on their daily lives have now abandoned and turned against them.

“Many families are currently going without food and if the proposed Finance Bill is passed and implemented, then many Kenyans may lose their lives because of hunger and starvation,” he told the mourners.

“I am asking our MPs to drop their selfish political ambitions by rejecting the Bill which is coming for its Third Reading before the floor of the house today,” Omogeni advised.

Support the Bill

But even as MPs from the opposition side remained divided as to whether they will support the bill or not, in the Kenya Kwanza camp, intense lobbying was going on both in and outside parliament as the top leadership of the coalition reached out to all MPs to get their support during today’s session.

The lobbying is said to have begun at the weekend when President Ruto who was in Kakamega county held a closed-door meeting with some of the leaders to deliberate on the bill before attending a church service at the Milimani ACK Church

During the meeting, the President is said to have sweet-talked MPs who had initially opposed the Bill or those who were absent into supporting it today.

Later while addressing a crowd in Kakamega town, Dr Ruto defended the opposition MPs who had supported the Bill while ridiculing their parties for threatening to discipline them.

He singled out Ikolomani MP Bernard Shinali and his Lurambi counterpart Titus Khamala whom he urged to support the bill or “he would report them to their constituents”. Shinali voted “no” while Bishop Khamala was absent.

And following the president’s intervention, Shinali was not emphatic over how he would vote during today’s session.

“A lot is happening now. I voted “no” on Wednesday because of my principles and pressure from my people. I cannot however say if I have a change of heart or not, as of now. Let us wait for tomorrow (today),” he said.

Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) chairperson and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro while defending the Bill said that leaders in opposition are free to give their input on the Finance bill when it is presented to the assembly for the second reading.

Ndindi said the leaders who have vowed to lodge protests if the bill is passed have the opportunity to propose for amendments in areas they feel don’t suit members of the public.

By people daily

Facebook Comments