Why Punguza Mizigo initiative has run into turbulence

Third Way Alliance Party Leader Ekuro Aukot who has championed the bill. [File, Standard]
Barely a week after Punguza Mzigo Bill was handed to the 47 county Assemblies, the subsequent criticism is now threatening to steal its allure.

From locking out meaningful participation of other actors to adopting populist approach and complicating simple matters to lack of transitional clauses, the Bill has been flayed open in censure.

It’s promoters however insist they will stay the course and ultimately, it is for Kenyans - through the MCAs first and later by themselves through a popular vote - to decide.

For Electoral Observation Group (Elog), the process has been already rigged for Punguza Mizigo by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). A report they issued earlier this week tore into credibility of the 1.2 million signatures as well as other matters.

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“Since IEBC had no repository of specimen signature (like the banks do), there was no way to compare and verify the same,” a detailed Elog report seen by the Sunday Standard says.

The Elog also noted that despite heavy investment by IEBC to have voters registered using their biometrics, the petition and subsequently the verification did not benefit from this.

The issues of duplication of ID numbers also cropped up as well as missing details and failure by IEBC to make public through Kenya Gazette the names and signatures.

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“Elog notes with concern that IEBC has gone ahead and okayed 1.2 million signatures submitted by the promoters of Punguza Mizigo Initiative, before publishing the final list to the public as initially promised denying the Kenyan people an opportunity to ascertain if in deed the said signatures were given with their consent.”

Others who have analysed the content of the Bill claim it fails the pragmatism and intellectual depth to respond to the issues confronting Kenyans.

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“What the campaign does is to appeal to the grassroots with proposals that are crafted for populism. It seems the idea is to create the perception that through the proposed amendments, counties will benefit more in terms of redistribution of resources and power,” former IEBC Chief Executive Ezra Chiloba says in a detailed critique.

And then there are presuppositions Punguza makes among them that the cost of government is too high. On the contrary, Mr Chiloba’s analysis says the Office of the Auditor General’s study on the impact of the 2010 Constitution concluded that the cost of running government under the 2010 Constitution was not significantly different from the previous period.

The Punguza strategy of pairing various groups against each other in order to win favor with one side is not lost to observers. This is through the proposals to reduce constituencies from 290 to 47, abolishing of nominated seats, deputy governors and CDF

“What is required is contestation leading to collaboration and not further polarization. Lessons from the 2002 - 2010 reform processes show that a high-level of political and social fractures is a threat to any reform process,” Chiloba technical paper warns.

The Punguza Mizigo’s proposed electoral system has also come out as somewhat bizarre. Some say they seek to “simplify the electoral system by complicating it.” Constituencies are created at county level, which counties will produce three in one positions of Senator, MP and Women Representative.

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While the Bill addresses the gender parity problem at the National Assembly, it fails to do so for the Senate and County Assembly. But even more serious is the confusion it creates in balance of power between Senate and National Assembly given they share similar constituency.

“The question would be whether a bicameral system is still relevant given the proposed electoral system. In many bicameral jurisdictions, the Upper House and the Lower House are elected from different electoral units,” Chiloba adds.

Elog wants Parliament, BBI, CSO, faith-based organisation initiatives and Punguza harmonised.

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