Speaker's election victory boosts Kenyan opposition

Some say there are only two tribes that matter in Kenya – the haves and the have-nots. The opening day of parliament yesterday, after the disputed elections that sparked a wave of violence across the country, was a reunion for the haves. Government and opposition MPs greeted each other like old friends, vigorously shaking hands and sharing jokes.

Indeed, many of them are old friends. Some opposition MPs once supported the government of President Mwai Kibaki, while about half those now aligned with the government were in opposition a few months ago. But even friends sometimes disagree. After a deeply flawed election that left international observers and diplomats unable to say for sure who won, both sides have accused the other of inciting violence which has so far claimed more than 600 lives.

The opposition Orange Democratic Movement party (ODM) is planning rallies today, and mediation efforts have been put on hold after the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who was due to arrive last night, went down with "severe flu".

In Nairobi's wood-panelled national assembly, modelled on Britain's House of Commons with its adversarial leather benches, the two sides continued their political battle yesterday as they voted on the new parliamentary Speaker.

Raila Odinga, the man that the ODM and its supporters believe is Kenya's rightful president, entered to a standing ovation from his own MPs. They remained seated as President Kibaki arrived moments later – the first time they had been in the same room since the December ballot.

Both sides backed different candidates for the Speaker's job. The government wanted Francis Ole Kaparo, the incumbent; the ODM was backing one of its own, Kenneth Marende. His party, with 99 of the 207 seats, was confident of victory. But, despite having just 43 MPs, Mr Kibaki was sure he had secured the support of enough members from smaller parties to win.

It did not take long for the atmosphere to heat up. The clerk, dressed in a dark blue gown, announced that the ballot would be secret. The ODM complained. A secret ballot, they feared, would allow some of their own supporters to switch sides. In Kenya's ideology-free, money-rich political world, bribery is not uncommon.

The ODM MPs made a show of displaying their ballot papers to supporters, provoking anger from some government MPs. "Why are they displaying their ballot? Is it a secret ballot?" yelled one. William Ruto, an opposition leader, hit back: "We went into the [presidential] election with a secret ballot, you stole the vote!"

One after another, MPs rose to make points of order as the increasingly exasperated clerk tried in vain to keep control. Others sat on the benches, exchanging insults across the aisle.

Kalonzo Musyoka, who finished third in the presidential poll and took the job of Vice-President, said MPs should not "participate in a flawed process". That brought a sharp response from the ODM's secretary general, Anyang' Nyong'o. "He has just accepted being Vice-President in a flawed process," he said, to cheers from his own side.

George Saitoti, the new Internal Security minister, said that anything other than a secret ballot would "undermine democracy". The government's pleas for secrecy were, his colleagues said, based on principle.

The clerk, now beginning to sweat, repeated his call for the MPs "show the nation how a secret ballot is run". In the end, the argument was settled by Britain.

The Attorney General, Amos Wako, waved a copy of Erskine May: Parliamentary Practice, the guide to British parliamentary procedure. Where Kenya's parliamentary practices were not specific enough, he said, British rules filled the gaps.

Turning to page 280 of the book's 23rd edition, Mr Wako quoted a section that said elections for Speaker should be held in secret. The votes already cast were torn up and the process started all over again.

President Kibaki, who sat on a leather-backed wooden throne behind the clerk, looked bored by the process, occasionally muttering to a soldier to his left.

"Would the President come and begin voting again?" the clerk asked. Mr Kibaki sighed and shuffled from his seat. He and the other MPs had to vote two more times before a result emerged. Bribery attempts had failed. The ODM won and elected Mr Marende.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral