On Thursday 8 September 2022, Moses Masika Wetangula became the 8th Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya elected under Article 106 (1) of the Constitution. Despite garnering 215 votes which is 18 votes short of the requisite 233 (or two-thirds) for one to assume office, 65-year-old Wetangula was declared the winner after his closest competitor Kenneth Marende conceded defeat before the voting went into the second round. The Clerk of the National Assembly noted that the two-thirds rule was not a constitutional requirement, but a procedural requirement.
The Speaker of the National Assembly completes the trifecta of powerful roles in Kenya’s government. After the President, and Deputy President, the Speaker serves as third-in-command. The Speaker position is also among the highest remunerated state positions, just behind the Head of State and Deputy President.
Since 1948 when the pre-independence Parliament was still known as Legislative Council (LegCo), Kenya has had a total of 14 Speakers. But the National Assembly has not always been divided into a Senate and House of Representatives. It was in 1962 that a Bicameral Legislature was first established which consisted of the Senate and the House of Representatives with separate speakers for both Houses. However, from 1966 to 2013 the National Assembly operated as a unicameral body — before the reestablishment of a bicameral Parliament, as mandated by the 2010 Constitution.
Wetangula takes over as the Speaker of the National Assembly in the 13th Parliament from Justin Bedan Njoka Muturi who is the immediate former Speaker of the National Assembly and also the first to serve under the post-2010 Constitution bicameral Parliament. Muturi was in office from 2013, getting reelected in 2017.
What are the Qualifications needed to be a Speaker
- The signatures of at least 20 MPs who back your bid.
- A letter from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) showing that the candidate is qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament but that the candidate is not such a member.
- The aspirants are also required to furnish Parliament with their educational background and certificates and other relevant supporting documents in line with Article 99(2) of the Constitution.
- At least two-thirds or 233 of the 349 members of the National Assembly to be elected speaker.
- When a candidate fails to achieve the requisite threshold of votes, they are subjected to a simple majority vote where the top two contenders run against each other. The one who receives a simple majority in the second-round wins.
To be elected as Speaker of the National Assembly, one must then find a way to lobby the different political parties and Independent MPs to support their candidacy. Although the battle may be determined by the strength of the coalitions in parliament, the conviction of the individual members of parliament cannot be discounted as the election of the Speaker of National Assembly is by secret ballot, meaning that the party position—though holding sway—is not the be-all, end-all.