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This is what plebiscite should be all about

By Mutahi Kagwe | August 5th 2019
Third Way Alliance Party Leader Ekuro Aukot addresses the media at a past function. His Punguza Mizigo bill seeking to amend the Constitution has faced resistance from various political leaders. [Standard]

I see three objectives that should be attained through a constitutional amendment necessitating a referendum. The first one should be to create sustainable peace and a predictable political environment.

Every five years, Kenyans lose lives, suffer economic downfall and become internal refugees following elections.

Clearly, Kenya is not homogeneous enough to sustain a presidential system of government. A change from presidential to a county-based parliamentary system of government is necessary.

Simply put, Kenyans would vote for a party of their choice and the largest party or coalition of parties will form the Government, which should be led by a Prime Minister.

In further pursuit of sustainable peace, we should avoid a winner-takes-all scenario; I would therefore propose we have a ceremonial president (Indian system) elected by both Houses of Parliament.

Proportional representation

The Executive would therefore comprise of the President, Deputy President, Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. The Prime Minister should have the leeway to choose a Cabinet in and out of Parliament.

A parliamentarian selected to Cabinet would be replaced via the party list by the relevant political party. Members of the Cabinet, whether selected in or out of Parliament, would be ex officio members of both Houses.

This is necessary for direct responses because Cabinet ministers can respond to questions in both Houses. There should be an equivalent number of assistant ministers.

The second objective should be institutionalisation of fairness and equity of votes, otherwise known as one person, one vote.

We have regions where legislators represent huge numbers of voters while in others, very few voters.

This is totally against democratic practice of one person-one-vote. Therefore, to address this shortcoming, I propose that the county-based proportional representation does away with constituencies. Constituency creation largely results in gerrymandering and unfairness.

Constituencies are sometimes designed with the end result in mind either to favour a party or an individual.

Resources for development should be allocated to county governments and Members of Parliament should oversight the national government, county governments and legislate.

Party-based politics would also reduce corruption during elections. In other words, votes cast at counties should be directly proportional to Members of Parliament allocated to those counties.

One of the best examples of this is South Africa where parties have seats almost proportional to the votes cast for them.

Variations can be introduced for better balance of party representation. To enhance predictability and stability, we should limit political parties to only three.

This can be done after the first election by simply picking the most popular three and allowing smaller parties to join them.

While this may seem undemocratic, not limiting political parties creates instability and problems of forming governments.  

In short, the Government should only finance the largest three parties.

The third objective should be reduction of cost of governance. To eliminate this cost, I propose the elimination of all nominations in Parliament and in county assemblies.

All equity desired, whether gender, youth, disabled or any other affirmative action should be presented within the allocated party list.

We should have no more than 203 members of the National Assembly and a total of 47 senators, totaling 250 Members of Parliament.

The role of the Senate should be enhanced to keep up with best practice and avoid parliamentary dictatorship which is quite possible if we have only one house.

Presidential elections

All executive appointments for instance, should be vetted by the Senate. The removal of nominations will reduce MPs and thus reduce costs. 

The elimination of the costs of carrying out presidential elections, a substantial amount of money especially when there is a run off and avoidance of by-elections, all make savings.

The supervision of political parties’ list creation should be done by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), starting at the county level.

IEBC should therefore be devolved to the counties and the qualifications demanded for the commissioners be duplicated.

On the county governments, I propose we maintain the 47 counties.

I further propose we change the revenue sharing formula to 40 per cent for the counties and 60 per cent for national government, but allocate more functions to the county governments such as primary education.

To encourage the creation of self-generated resources by the counties, we should expand their taxation base. The elections for county governments should be a duplication of the national ones.

For example, the governor will be the county leader of the party with the largest majority in the county assembly, while the senator will be the first person on the Senate party list.

Mr Kagwe is former senator, Nyeri County

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