The scramble for control of the Senate reached a climax when former Kilifi Governor, Amason Kingi, garnered more than two-thirds of the vote in the first round of the election of the Speaker of the Senate. Before his win, the battle for supremacy that had ensued between the Azimio la Umoja and Kenya Kwanza political factions clearly displayed why the Senate Speaker slot is significant.
First and foremost, the Senate is one of the legislative arms of the national government. It deals with making and amending laws and also overseeing county governments. In the hierarchy of importance in the Senate, the Speaker is the principal leader, with all the powers and duties to preside over the sittings of the House.
In his maiden speech as the Speaker of the Senate, Kingi vowed to discharge his duties with integrity and in accordance with the Constitution. But what exactly are the responsibilities bestowed on the Speaker of the Senate?
Key Duties of the Speaker of the Senate
The Speaker is primarily the spokesperson of the Senate. It is the Speaker’s duty to ensure that the rules for preservation of order are strictly adhered to. During proceedings, he or she decides on all points of order raised by any senator, either immediately or at a later time. Such decisions or rulings and other actions by the Speaker may only be questioned or criticised on a substantive motion.
Above all, the Speaker is bestowed the honour of being the final authority on all matters regarding the interpretation and application of the practice and procedure of Parliament at all times. In enforcing the rules of procedure, the Speaker’s powers are profound. For instance, the Speaker holds the exclusive right to decide on all matters not specifically provided for in the Standing Orders. Should there be grave disorder, the Speaker could suspend the sitting, or order the withdrawal of an errant senator from the Chamber; and on such a senator being named, the Speaker would be obligated to suspend him or her.
Other key functions of the Speaker of the Senate include:
- Presiding over all debates of the Senate and enforcing the observance of the Constitution, the Standing Orders, relevant statute and parliamentary traditions, procedures and practices;
- Administering the Oath of Affirmation or Allegiance to Senators and issuing writs for vacant senatorial seats;
- Protecting the rights of the minority while making sure that the majority have their way;
- Organising the business of the House as a Member of the House Business Committee.
In addition, the Speaker plays a representative role on behalf of the House, to the outside world, as the branch Chairperson of several inter-parliamentary organisations.