Senator Murkomen tables bill to quash degree requirement for aspirants

Senator Murkomen tables bill to quash degree requirement for aspirants

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen has drafted a bill seeking to amend Section 22 of the Elections Act, 2011 requiring all candidates vying for Parliamentary and County Assembly positions to hold a Bachelor’s degree.

In the proposed amendment, Murkomen wants anyone who is able to read and write in the English or Swahili languages or, in the case of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, is literate the Kenya sign language eligible to vie.

“The provision as contained in the Elections Act is not only restrictive but discriminates against persons who may not have a degree as it implies that only persons who have a degree have the capacity to serve in public office,” stated Senator Murkomen in his submission to the Senate.

The amendment comes days after Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati announced that only those with degrees will be allowed to vie in the polls in compliance with the Elections Act.

“We follow the law and the Elections Act clearly states that all candidates in the six elective positions must have a university degree to able to qualify to run for office,” Chebukati said on Monday, throwing a spanner in the works.

The amendment is premised on Article 38(3) of the Constitution, which provides that “every adult citizen has a right, without unreasonable restrictions, to be registered as a voter, to vote by secret ballot in any election of referendum, and to be a candidate for public office or office within a political party of which the citizen is a member and elected, to hold office”.

Other than candidates in Parliamentary elections, Murkomen also seeks to have candidates for County Assembly seats also exempted from IEBC’s academic qualifications, basing his argument on Article 110 of the Constitution.

“Under Article 110 of the Constitution, a Bill concerning county governments includes a Bill relating to the election of members of a county assembly or a county executive. The Bill is therefore one that concerns county governments in terms of Article 110 (1) (a) of the Constitution and is a Special Bill in terms of Article 110 (2) (a) (i) of the Constitution,” he remarked.

On Tuesday, two citizens petitioned the National Assembly to repeal Section 22(1)(b) of the Elections Act, 2011.

Anthony Manyara and John Wangai argued that the section is unconstitutional to the extent that it is discriminatory, inconsistent with the constitutional preserves in the Bill of Rights and against the will and sovereignty of the people.

“The petitioners claim that the university degree requirement will make political leadership a preserve of the elite and will disenfranchise a number of good leaders who may not have been privileged to pursue higher education,” stated the petition as read out in the House by Speaker Justin Muturi.

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