Why parliamentary democracy is good for Kenya

Kenyan MPs in Parliament. [Photo: Courtesy]
“The American System is, in many ways, more difficult, certainly far more expensive and much longer than parliamentary system, and I really admire the people who subject themselves to it.  Even when I, you know, think they should not be elected president, I think, well you know, good for you I guess, you’re over there promoting democracy and those crazy ideas of yours”

In addition to this quote against a presidential system of government, from Hillary Clinton, Russian President Vladimir Putin puts it even more bluntly:  "Look there is parliamentary democracy in most European countries, there is parliamentary democracy in Japan, there is parliamentary democracy in many countries, but in the United States, for some reason… there is a stringent presidential republic."

What these two world leaders are saying is that the presidential democracy is not only a difficult outfit in the rest of the world, but also in the United States where it is believed to have succeeded.

No wonder, then, Kenya has been bedeviled by crisis after crisis during election periods. The 2007/8 post-election violence is the worst political crises we have witnessed.

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Nasty presidential contest

The presidential campaigns focus is on the personality of the individual candidate and not on the party.

In an epic political contests between two protagonists as witnessed last year in Kenya, there could be danger of serious schism that could tear the fabric that hold the country together.

And often, a scenario like the famous battle between David and Goliath of Gath, where the lives of two nations depended on the outcome of a fight between two individuals.

Further a bad and an incompetent candidate, who may be dramatic in hunting for votes, but not necessary good in managing state affairs could be elected into office as exemplified by some governors who were elected in some crucial counties.

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Moreover, the presidential campaigns are very costly leading to incessant and mega corruptions.

Due to the persistent presidential election stand-off and the inherent weakness in that system, it may be prudent that we reviewed the 2010 framework of the presidential system of government, to pave the way for parliamentary democracy.

A parliamentary system of government is suitable for Kenya because it will diminish our chronic tribalism, cronyism and minimise the political cleavages that have beset and threatened to pull the country asunder.

Parliamentary democracy headed by a prime minister has in – built mechanism for power sharing through coalitions and consensus building.

It is also more stable, more efficient, more accountable and less corrupt. The cabinet and prime minister are regularly called to account for their decisions and actions.

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The quality of leaders in the parliamentary system are often better because the party tends to choose the best among them to become the party leader and eventually the head of government.

Even good leaders from small ethnic communities could be elected to head governments.

A case in point is the election of Cyril Ramaphosa, who comes from tiny Venda tribe of South Africa.

The Legislature and the Executive arms of government are fused in a parliamentary system making it easy to change leadership when necessary without destabilising the country.

It is argued that the economic, social and political progress in European countries is attributed to parliamentary political system.

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Presidential system is a winner – takes – all. In the entire five years, the losers will be confined to political wilderness and probably out of active politics altogether.

The defeat of Raila Odinga and the NASA brigade will make them out of the political scene for the next half a decade; but were it a parliamentary system, they would be in Parliament as Opposition leaders and their knowledge, skills and presence in government would be useful in the development and stability of the country.

To sum it up, a prime minister is the first among equals. The President has no equal.

In summary, a parliamentary system is better in guarding the nation against direct election by the masses and shield the country from unsuitable leaders.

Mr Talel is a management consultant

democracykenyan mpsparliamentary democracypresidential election