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After the death of BBI, the Finance Bill is the next battlefield

Every party took something from the judgement by the Supreme Court that ended the journey for the bid to amend the Constitution that started with the Building Bridges Initiative.   

Those opposed to the bid, Deputy President William Ruto and the Kenya Kwanza group, took the victory as proof that they were right all along and that the thinking and timing of the attempt was wrong.

For the supporters of the Bill backed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and presidential aspirant Raila Odinga, there was a victory in the rejection of the Basic Doctrine Principle, that the High Court and Court of Appeal judges had used as the basis to reject the idea that the Constitution can be changed.

Supporters of Mr Odinga have said that the Bill is now “on halftime”, and he has the option of picking it up and restarting the bid when he becomes President after the August elections.

Dr Ruto’s supporters are likely to spend a week in celebration mode, using the defeat of the Bill to criticise Mr Odinga, President Kenyatta, and everything associated with the ‘Handshake’.

Another event that is bound to provide the next set of talking points is the Budget Statement, which the Treasury had proposed to read next week in the National Assembly, but is unlikely to happen.

This is because there is a dispute between the National Assembly and the Senate over how much money the counties ought to receive in the next financial year. Because of a ruling by the High Court last year, the Bill to share revenue between the two levels of government must be enacted first before the Budget can be read.

The delay means prolonged anxiety for some sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, as they wait to see whether there will be an increase in excise duty rates.

Dr Ruto’s supporters in the National Assembly are likely to jump on the opportunity offered by a proposal to increase excise duty. They can easily frame it as a move by President Kenyatta to increase the cost of living. The discussions on the increased cost of living spurred by Kenya Kwanza have gained traction, with recent increases in the prices of goods and the fuel shortage helping cement that narrative.

Supporters of the ‘Handshake’, such as Gladys Wanga, the chairman of the Finance  Committee, will have to bear the duty that comes with the job of backing the Finance Bill.

It is still too early to tell precisely what is contained in it, but for both sides of the political discussions, the Finance Bill will be an opportunity they will relish.  

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