Kenya : Grand opposition to check grand coalition

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Kenyan parliamentarians have begun talks on the formation of a “Grand Opposition” party to avoid the possibility of what they termed a “grand dictatorship” following the formation of grand coalition government.

Parliamentarians who missed out on the bloated coalition cabinet named on Sunday, ganged up in Parliament when it resumed business on Tuesday after a three-week recess to await a new cabinet.

The lawmakers from Safina Party, an affiliate party within President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and the third main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement of Kenya (ODM-Kenya), said they would unite as opposition.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, for a long time the de facto opposition leader, found his usual seat in parliament occupied as he stepped into the House on Tuesday and ended up on the backbench, forcing some of the backbenchers to seek the Speaker’s attention.

“Is it in order for the Prime Minister to sit in the backbench?” asked Yatta law maker Charles Kilonzo, soon after the Speaker allowed journalists to relay the proceedings of parliament live, saying it was a historic day for the first coalition cabinet in parliament.

Odinga, the new Prime Minister and Kenya’s second occupant of the office, sat on the backbenches. The Deputy Speaker Maalim Mohammed, a member of Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), ruled that it was in order for him to sit on the back bench.

The Speaker said the new Prime Minister had not been sworn in and was therefore not recognized as Premier until Thursday, when the new cabinet was expected to take the oath.

Kenyan parliament has been left without an official opposition party following the formation of the grand coalition government, bringing together the two main political parties. PNU is an alliance of 15 political parties, including ODM-K and Safina.

“We will not allow the Grand Coalition to become the grand dictatorship party,” said Kikuyu town lawmaker Linus Nguyayi of Safina Party. He said the backbencher s were planning the formation of the “grand opposition” coalition.

Kenya’s parliamentary rules require a political party to have at least 30 Member s of Parliament to assume the post of the official leader of the opposition.

“There is no official opposition in parliament, if you read the standing orders of this House,” Mohammed told the MPs. He said the MPs they should only raise the issue of the Prime Minister’s seat when he had been sworn in. Panapress.

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