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Inside Raila party’s push for powerful PM, leaner Senate

By Kepher Otieno | January 27th 2019

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at Mama Ngina Drive in Mombasa on January 7, 2019. [Kelvin Karan, Standard]

Positions of Woman Representatives and Senators would be scrapped and the 47 counties collapsed to 14 should proposals by ODM be adopted by the Building Bridges team and passed in a referendum.

In its radical proposals, the party says the country should only have 14 regions managed by premier governors to help cut the wage bill. Instead of electing 47 senators, the party wants Kenyans to pick two people from each of the 14 regions to sit in the Senate.

According to ODM chairman John Mbadi, the party is currently fine-tuning the proposals that are likely to spark debate.

Public debate

Some of the proposals are likely to alter the structure of the Executive and devolved units, Mr Mbadi admitted in an interview.

“We know there are some proposals that will generate debate. If adopted, some of them will inform the ballot questions at the referendum,” he said.

ODM is keen on a hybrid system that will change the Executive structure and create an executive prime minister post. This will give birth to a president and a prime minister who will share power.

The proposal for 14 regions to be headed by premier governors, if accepted, will see most of the 47 counties merged. ODM, however, insists the counties will retain their identities.

“What will change is the management of the counties because they will now be answerable to the regional heads of premier governors,’’ Mbadi said. Other proposals include devolving 45 per cent of national revenue to the counties based on revenue collection proceeds and retention of the 1,450 wards.

Initially, ODM wanted the 1,450 wards reduced. It is not clear what informed the party’s change of mind. Some party members are proposing to reduce the number of MPs from the current 349 to 180 to cut down on costs.

“But of the proposed reduction, 60 will be elected on proportional representation to ensure gender parity,” Mbadi said. Some of the issues ODM proposes are still subject to debate within the party. For instance, onion is split over the number of regions. Some party members are rooting for 12 while others want 14. Mbadi said the party will still consult as it seeks to define the roles of the proposed regional devolved units to clarify the distribution of functions under the Fourth Schedule.

This includes whether counties should run infrastructure projects, primary health care or agriculture distinct from the national functions.

The party is also considering creating a Senate with only 28 members elected from each of the 14 regions.

Mbadi said the hybrid executive system will have a President and a Prime Minister as a way of sharing power and ensuring ethnic inclusivity.

This is the same vision shared by President Uhuru Kenyatta when he visited Nyanza recently.

“If the issue of the winner takes it all is the problem each election cycle, then there is need to re look the root cause of the problem and resolve it within legal bounds,’’  he said

This was informed by hue and cry from the Opposition leadership which claimed the current system only favored some ethnic communities and encouraged exclusion.

The draft of the Constitution produced at the Bomas of Kenya Delegates Conference in 2005 suggested creation of a president, a deputy, prime minister and ministers.

The proposals suggested that the PM would head the Cabinet and would be appointed by the President.

This system, Mbadi told Sunday Standard, was modeled on a French or South African democracy model where Executive power is exercised by the president and State.

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