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Brexit imbroglio offers sobering lessons for us

By Mohamed Guleid | June 13th 2019

The United Kingdom prides itself as the mother of modern democracy. At least from Kenya’s perspective everything about our democracy since independence is based on the British system. Even our Parliament is a replica of the West Minster.

The Speaker of the Kenya’s Parliament apes the Speaker of the House of Commons with a roaring thunder of, Order! Order! when things threaten to get out of hand. However, I sometimes wonder, is United Kingdom really the democracy it claims to be? The former colonial motherland of Kenya actually has no constitution.

In addition, the lack of this important legal document is part of the problem why Britain’s democracy could be at fault. Just this past week the British Prime Minister Theresa May tendered her resignation and paved way for the conservative party to elect her replacement. The resignation of Mrs May implies that only a Conservative Member of Parliament can replace her.

Government of the few

The new leader of the Conservative Party or the Tories as the party is commonly referred to, can only be elected by the members of the Conservative Party, forget about the coalition partner the Unionist who are the underdogs in this partnership. The members of the Tory Party are roughly 124,000 people who shall receive their ballot papers to select their leader from two names the party leadership is expected to offer them.

The rest of the 66 million Britons have no say over who shall become their next Prime Minister. In the last couple of years, Britain has changed Prime Minsters several times without an election. Ideally, the UK is not any different from Somalia where the President is elected by a handful of MPs who in turn, were elected by around 5,000 clan elders through a proportional representation of various clans.

Somalia’s Electoral College is mostly arbitrary and there is no much transparency on how the elders are selected. More often than not, the elders part with huge sums of money to acquire this coveted position. In turn, they recoup their “investment” from potential candidates who will represent their clans in a Parliament.

This is a form of business. The MPs in Somalia once elected (or selected) wait for their turn to extort from the presidential candidates. The higher the office, the higher the amounts of bribes.

According to The Economist, a British news magazine, two-third of the members of the Tory Party are male and are mostly elderly. Women and the youth hardly join the Conservative party. This has implications for the 66 million people in the UK because the Prime Minister elected shall steer the cause and prepare the country for the Brexit, which is expected to take effect before the end of this year.

Britain is sharply divided over Brexit and most of those who are opposed to the divorce from the EU have no say over the leader who will determine their destiny.

Staring at a crisis

The situation in the UK is nothing short of a crisis. In case a new leader is elected, Parliament has to vote and ratify the Brexit as voted for in a 2016 referendum. In case Parliament rejects the terms for withdrawal, this might trigger a General Election, meaning the deadline of the end of September might not be achieved. This means either the Brits must go back to a referendum or the new Prime Minister might decide to by-pass Parliament and get the United Kingdom out of the EU. No doubt, Europe is staring at the worst political crisis since it was formed in 1993.

We too are staring at a potential monster in the making.

Right now in Kenya, the excitement is in the adoption of a parliamentary system similar to that in the UK. You may ask for what?

And as we forward our proposed amendments to the 2010 Constitution- to once again ape the British system of Parliamentary democracy where the head of government is elected by MPs- we need to be very careful so as not to compound our problems by willfully creating challenges similar to those facing the UK.

Come to think of it; how many of us- having tested universal suffrage will countenance the situation where we have a Leader of Government who is answerable to the greedy MPs? Won’t we witness the mother of all blackmails?

Mr Guleid is the Executive Director of the Frontier Counties Development Council


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