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What ought to be done to restore Parliament’s standing

By The Standard | Published Wed, February 14th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 13th 2018 at 23:42 GMT +3
Parliament in session during the 2016 budget day. [Photo by Boniface Okendo/Standard]

It is said Parliament is sovereign; that its members derive the power they wield directly from the people. That assumption has faced its severest test ever in the 11th and 12th Parliaments. The actions and utterances from those elected to Parliament evoke a sense of foreboding that something has gone utterly wrong with our democracy. And that the Legislature, the third arm of government, is its weakest link.

Parliament’s lowest moment yet came last week during the vetting of nominees to Cabinet. To say that the exercise was a charade is an understatement. With NASA MPs staying away from the exercise, it was expected that their Jubilee counterparts would labour to create a semblance of legitimacy in the process. Alas, they did not.

With a ‘super’ majority, it is shameful that the Jubilee-majority has hardly crafted and rallied its members to pass legislation geared toward making life for a majority of Kenyans feeling hard done by these depressed economic times better.

Shortly after the August 8, 2017 General Election, Leader of Majority Aden Duale haughtily remarked that he would move legislation to tame the Judiciary. His Jubilee Party was smarting from the embarrassment caused by the annulment of Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election. The Supreme Court was the fall guy then and not the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission that had cost them their win.

The abiding memory is that of a House eager to pander to the wishes of an overbearing Executive even if means subverting the Constitution to promote short-term, sectarian interests. The whimsical quality of debate in Parliament and the obvious lack of spine to stand up for what is in public interest will make formidable MPs like Kijana Wamalwa, Martin Shikuku, Taita Towett and Chelagat Mutai turn in their graves. Just what has happened to our MPs?

Debates are not guided by principles; neither is there loyal opposition to any issue. Allegiance is not to party ideology, but to the party hierarchy even when there is none. Yet to condemn the MPs wholesome is to miss the point.

The problem starts with the selection of the so-called people’s representatives. It is foolhardy to expect the best from a process that most admit is flawed and rigged to ensure that only the worst get to the top. They also say citizens deserve the leaders they elect. Surely, Kenyans deserve better than those MPs have to offer. A more rigorous process of selecting MPs that guarantees only the best sail through party nominations is one such way. Hopefully, that is not far off.

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