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Kuria’s radical law reform proposals stir controversy

By Jacob Ng’etich | January 20th 2019

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria. [Photo, Standard]

A new referendum proposal radically wants each party in the presidential contest to involve a team of five people in its ballot paper.

The proposal by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria adds to 13 others made last year seeking to open for surgery of the 2010 Constitution.

In his suggestions, Kuria wants the seat of women representatives in the National Assembly removed and nominated positions at the county assembly and senate scrapped. 

He also wants senators to serve as county speakers.  

Having rubbished the ongoing referendum politics last year, claiming the country should not engage in a referendum meant to “create employment for three old men at the expense of millions of Kenyan youth,” Kuria’s about turn is perpelexing.

Raging debate

In his document to be presented to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), he now supports constitutional changes to create the positions of Prime Minister and leader of opposition and reduce the number of nominated MPs and MCAs.

The raging debate on the change of the 2010 law has been emotive, with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga’s allies in support while Deputy President William Ruto’s team playing a wait-and-see.

Ruto, in declaring his partial support for the referendum, said he would only join the bandwagon if it was meant to ease the burden for Kenyans.

“We have no problem with the referendum. Our problem is hypocrisy and conmanship, to tell us the referendum was agreed during the handshake, you are lying to us,” he said.

Already, the 14 proposals have elicited mixed reactions across the political divide.

Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale dismissed Kuria’s proposal as selfish.

“What is this obsession with creating positions for some three or four people? The proposal apparently wants to reward the five big tribes, where do you place the other 39? We need inclusivity that will bring even the Elmolo on board,” said Duale.

The five centres of power, Duale said, was a recipe for conflict and power struggles in running of government.

His senate counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen also believes that the push for PM position was meant to please some few politicians.

“We know this clamour and calls for referendum is tied to the creation of PM seat for someone who has lost elections perennially,,” Murkomen recently said.

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, who has welcomed the move to have the Executive expanded, said a crowded ballot for the five people would easily confuse the voters.

“It is a welcome proposal, it needs some refining though,” said Junet.

His Kimilili counterpart Chris Wamalwa also lauded the presidential and parliamentary hybrid proposal.

“The presidential system of government has failed. The mixture of the two will be the best for Kenya. We also want Cabinet to come from both the National Assembly and Senate members,” said Dr Wamalwa.  

If the changes are to be passed in a referendum, the ballot papers in the next elections will have a presidential candidate and his deputy president, prime minister and two deputies.

None of them should come from the same tribe, the proposal says.

Both the president and his deputy in the composition shall be MPs but the prime minister who may vie as a member of the National Assembly and who, if not be elected, will automatically become a nominated member of the National Assembly if the president wins.

The two deputy prime ministers will have been elected or nominated for the National Assembly and senate.

This, according to Kuria, would cure the weakness of the 2010 constitutional presidential system which was structured in a sharp pyramidical structure that comprised only two senior executive members at the top tier.

Ideal system

“This system may be ideal in a homogenous society, it contributes to feelings of exclusion in diverse societies like Kenya,” said Kuria.

Also in Kuria’s proposals is a robust office of the leader of the Official Opposition to be occupied by the first runners-up in the presidential election and who will become an automatic nominated member of the National  Assembly.

Previous proposals have suggested other radical changes, including abolition of the provincial administration and reduction on number of MPs and MCAs.

In June last year, the Dialogue Reference Group and Maendeleo ya Wanawake also called for creation of prime minister’s position.

Away from the public glare, Parliament has also been engaged in the momentous push. Two MPs have written to the National Assembly Speaker seeking to amend the Constitution to create a rotational presidency and the position of a prime minister appointed by the president.

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