MPs in new bid to clip Ruto’s wings, push creation of 73 constituencies

Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni makes his remarks in support of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) at the BBI Secretariat headquarters in Nairobi on December 1,2020 [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Lawmakers have hatched a plot to cut Deputy President William Ruto to size by stripping his office of its constitutionally guaranteed security of tenure.

The MPs, through a proposed legislation, want to create two positions of DP and have them serve at the pleasure of the president.

The Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Ndaragua MP Jeremiah Kioni, is further pushing for the creation of an additional 73 constituencies through the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2021. This will increase the number of constituencies from 290 to 363.

The Bill has also proposed creation of the positions of prime minister and two deputies in what appears to be an attempt to salvage the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

The move to water down the DP’s powers is linked to the standoff between President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP Ruto. The two have for the past three years engaged in political shadow-boxing that has strained their working relationship.

A frustrated Uhuru recently dared Ruto to resign if he is dissatisfied with the government. Currently, the DP can only be removed from office on the grounds of physical or mental incapacity to perform his duties.

The office holder can also be removed from office through an impeachment process that has to be supported by at least two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and the Senate.

The requisite numbers have proved difficult to achieve thereby frustrating previous threats by Uhuru allies to impeach Ruto.

The Bill now seeks to amend Article 150(1) of the Constitution by handing the President powers to initiate the process that would require the support of only one-third of the members in the two Houses.

“Article 150(1) is amended by inserting the following new paragraph immediately after paragraph (b)—(c) by the President with the approval of at least one-third of members of the National Assembly and at least one-third of members of the Senate.

Dismiss the Deputy President

“The principal object of this Bill is to amend the Constitution to enable the President appoint and dismiss the Deputy Presidents and also create the positions of Prime Minister and two Deputy Prime Ministers,” states the Bill.

The Bill proposes that each candidate in a presidential election shall be required to nominate two individuals as candidates for first and second deputy presidents, respectively. The two have to be qualified for nomination for election as president.

The Bill states that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission shall declare the candidates nominated by the person who is elected president to be elected as the deputy presidents.

“The Deputy Presidents may resign from office at any time by notice, in writing, addressed to the President and the resignation shall take effect on the date and at the time specified in the notice, if any, or if a date is not specified, at noon on the day after the notice is delivered,” the Bill proposes.

The prime minister would be the leader of government business in the National Assembly.

A person will only be eligible to be nominated as prime minister if he/she is an elected member of the National Assembly. The person would also be required to be the leader of the largest party or coalition of parties.

On the push to increase the number of the constituencies, the Bill proposes that the electoral commission reviews the names and boundaries of constituencies at intervals of not less than eight years and not more than 12 years.

According to the Bill, any review shall be completed at least 12 months before elections of Members of Parliament.

And in the event that a General Election is to be held within 12 months after the completion of a review by the commission, the new boundaries shall not take effect for purposes of that particular election.

Kioni faulted the Tangatanga wing allied to the DP for opposing the creation of the constituencies, saying the process would have ensured they are properly resourced.

Skewed allocation of resources

“It’s a pay Tangatanga brought to us. The IEBC has a lot on its plate. We had anticipated that the BBI would be done and referendum done by August to allow IEBC to do the boundaries delimitation by December. Now it’s too late, but this Bill will help even if it seems impossible. The new constituencies were to address the skewed allocation of resources especially to larger constituencies that are disenfranchised,” he said.

The MP said he is optimistic that the proposed legislation will get Parliament’s backing. The landmark ruling that declared the BBI process illegal, however, still poses a threat to this latest push to amend the Constitution.

The High Court ruling on BBI made it difficult to amend the Constitution by declaring that Chapter Nine on the Executive and Chapter 10 on the Judiciary and their provisions form part of the “basic structure,” therefore cannot be amended either under Article 256 by Parliament or through a popular initiative under Article 257 of the Constitution.

Majority of the Court of Appeal judges upheld the High Court finding that the basic structure principle was applicable in amending the Constitution, declaring that some clauses could not be amended without conducting civic education, public participation, and debates on legislative assemblies and referendum.

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