Who is running for Speaker of the National Assembly?

KEN OPALO |

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi during an interview on September 15, 2021. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

One of the biggest failures in the implementation of the 2010 Constitution has been the continued weakness of Parliament, especially the National Assembly.

From the symbolism of listing Parliament as the first branch of government in the Constitution to the specific powers allocated to the institution, the framers sought to maximise Parliament’s influence on policy and oversight of other branches.

As a result, at least on paper, we have one of the strongest legislatures in the world. Yet, Parliament refuses to fully embrace its powers and functions. Whether individually or collectively, legislators have failed to live up to expectations over the last eight years.

The committee system remains weak and susceptible to influence from outside Parliament. Legislators have largely ceded policy making to the Executive. It has been a while since any bold legislation that sought to significantly change Kenyan lives came out of Parliament.

And perhaps most ominously, the Executive branch has dictated the legislative agenda and membership of committees at will.

This is not how it was supposed to be. To avoid reliving the last eight years, we need candidates with a bold vision for the role of Speaker of the National Assembly.

At the core of that vision must be a jealous protection of the independence and effectiveness of Parliament as a legislative and oversight institution.

Such a candidate must also promise to mobilise legislators against undue external interference from political parties and other extra-parliamentary forces. The idea is Parliament can only be as independent as its individual members.

Over the next several months the focus will be on the presidential election. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that all elections will be important.

This includes positions that will not be on the ballot – like that of Speaker of the National Assembly. Potential candidates need to come out early and state exactly how they hope to strengthen Parliament’s stature and make Kenyans’ lives better.

 The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University

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