Elections 2017

Uhuru-Raila team seeks powerful premier, seven-year presidency

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga with members of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) at State House, Nairobi. [File, Standard]

A single seven-year term president, a powerful prime minister and introduction of 14 regional governments are among constitutional amendments proposed by a team named by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The country could be headed for a parliamentary system of government with the Premier being head of government, if proposals by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that mirror recommendations in the Bomas draft are implemented. The preliminary report was reportedly shared with the principals last week and the team will retreat to write the final report next month.

Its preliminary report proposes a Cabinet appointed from among MPs of not more than 20 ministers, including two deputy Prime Ministers, reintroduces deputy ministers, raises allocations to counties to 45 per cent and recommends a reduction of the number of MPs to 209 from 416.   

Ethnic antagonism

The report, seen by The Standard, reveals that the 12-member team tasked to propose measures to end ethnic antagonism every election year, wants the President to be elected by a three-tier Electoral College through a secret ballot for a non-renewable term of seven years.

Alternatively, the team proposes that the election of the President be by direct adult suffrage through a secret ballot on the Tuesday immediately preceding the 21 days before the expiry of the term of the sitting President.

“The President shall hold office for a term not exceeding seven years beginning with the date of assumption of office,” reads part of the report.

“A person shall not hold office as President for more than one term,” adds the report.

The President shall be the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces. 

According to BBI, the national executive authority of the republic shall be exercised in accordance with the Constitution by, or on the authority of, the President and the Prime Minister together with the rest of the Cabinet.

“The President shall exercise the powers and perform the functions of that office on the advice of the Cabinet unless this constitution states otherwise,” the proposal reads in part.

The team suggests that the President shall appoint and may dismiss the Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Ministers and the ministers.

Other officials appointed or fired by the President are deputy ministers, judges of the superior courts and any other State or public officer who is appointed by the President.

The team proposes that the deputy president shall be the principal assistant and shall not serve for more than two terms.

The team headed by Garissa Senator Yusuf Hajji and his Busia counterpart Amos Wako proposes that the country amends the supreme law and anchor in the Constitution the position of a Prime Minister and a deputy.

According to the report, the Premier shall be the Head of Government, whose main function shall be to direct and coordinate day-to-day work of the ministries and the preparation of legislation, and be responsible to Parliament.

The Prime Minister shall be appointed from the National Assembly being the leader of the largest political party or coalition of parties or in its absence, the leader of the second-largest party or coalition of parties.

To address divisive elections, the team recommends that the country should adopt a parliamentary system that will remove the focus on the presidency that has become the trophy of ethnic competition.

Parliamentary system

“Restructure the Executive to reintroduce a parliamentary system with a President elected by a college of legislators,” reads the report.

According to the report, the Cabinet shall consist of Prime Minister; deputy prime minister; and not fewer than 15, and not more than 20 other ministers.

The Prime Minister shall present to the President, for appointment, two deputy prime ministers from among the elected members of the National Assembly; not fewer than 15 and not more than 20 ministers; and not fewer than 15 and not more than 20 deputy ministers from among elected members of the National Assembly.

It is proposed that the Prime Minister may, in presenting ministers for appointment, include the names of not more than 10 persons who are not members of the National Assembly, but who are qualified for election to the National Assembly.

The team further proposes that the country should adopt full electronic voting, with the electoral commissioners being nominated by political parties. 

“Provide for the establishment of a national and regional electoral commission, whose members are nominated by political parties, with commissioners working part-time. The chair of the commission at the national and regional levels to be rotational and elected by the members of the commission for a period not exceeding 12 months.”

The team is also proposing that election petitions should be limited to one and one appeal, except for the presidential election, which is exclusively for the Supreme Court. County and regional assembly petitions should be lodged at the High Court and one appeal at the Court of Appeal.

In order to reduce the public wage bill, the team is recommending that the Senate be strengthened and made an upper house, and its membership reduced to 29 - two from each of the 14 regions, and the speaker.

It further recommends that the membership of the National Assembly be reduced to 180, from the 349. The team proposes that the 12 slots for nomination be abolished.

BBI identified scramble for resources at national and local levels, winner takes all electoral system, historical injustices, stereotyping and ethnic profiling and willing-buyer-willing-seller land transfer policies as the catalysts of ethnic antagonism and competition.

And to address ethnic hatred, the BBI team is proposing a review of the electoral system with regard to the national executive, development of policies and legislations that address inequitable access to resources at national, regional and local levels.

The technical team further recommends that reports of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) be implemented and ethnic profiling made a felony punishable in law.

“Make the competition for leadership a contest of ideas through political party platforms as opposed to ethnic warfare by adopting a parliamentary system and full implementation of TJRC and Waki reports,” reads the proposal.

BBI is proposing an increase in county allocations from current 15 per cent to 45 per cent, with 13.5 per cent chanelled to regional governments and another 26.5 per cent to be shared equally among county governments.

Regional assemblies

“Introduce 14 regional governments as per the Bomas draft and create regional assemblies comprising all members of the county assemblies in each region,” reads the report.

A regional government for each of the defined regions consists of a regional assembly and a regional executive. The principal role of a regional government is to co-ordinate the implementation, within the counties forming the region, of programmes and projects that extend across two or more counties of the region.

And in order for the regional government to develop, the team says there is need to reduce corruption and nepotism in employment in county public service by abolishing County Public Service Boards and creating Regional Public Service Boards.

“Repeal County Governments Act 2012 and replace with Devolved Governments Act. Introduce 14 regional governments as per the Bomas Draft,” the report reads. These will be inclusive of the 47 counties.

In a move that would completely alter the country’s governance structure, the team is proposing that the regional governments be headed by a regional premier with a deputy and Regional Public Service boards.