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President Uhuru Kenyatta reads through the Building Bridges Initiative report when he received it at State House, Nairobi.
The president will share power with a prime minister in a new political dispensation proposed by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

The recommendations are similar to an arrangement that paved the way for a unity government between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in 2018.

In the BBI report, the president remains Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief, while the PM will draw his powers from parliament and supervise the execution of day-to-day government affairs.

The PM, under the proposals, will be the leader of the largest political party or coalition of parties and will be appointed by the president and approved by the House.

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“Within a set number of days following the summoning of parliament after an election, the President shall appoint as prime minister an elected member of the National Assembly from a political party having a majority of members in the National Assembly or, if no political party has a majority, one who appears to have the support of a majority of MPs,” the 14-member BBI team has recommended.

Work of a PM

“The prime minister shall have supervision and execution of the day-to-day functions and affairs of the government. The prime minister shall be the Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly. On the president’s tasking, the prime minister will chair Cabinet sub-committees. In the exercise of his authority, the prime minister shall perform or cause to be performed any matter or matters which the president directs to be done.”

The BBI team has proposed retention of the current electoral structure, where a president will be directly elected by the people and must garner 50 per cent plus one of all total votes cast, and 25 per cent in majority of the country’s 47 counties.

It has also proposed retention of the present two-term limit for the position of president, who will chair the cabinet comprising the deputy president, prime minister and cabinet ministers.

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The team handed over its report to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga yesterday at State House.

The BBI team was formed in the aftermath of the disputed 2017 General Election.

A political deal between Uhuru and Raila on March 9, 2018, popularly known as the ‘Handshake’ led to the formation of the team co-chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji and his Busia counterpart Amos Wako.

Under a nine-point agenda, the team set out to gather views on solving some of the country’s most pressing ills such as exclusion, corruption and historical injustices.

After receiving presentations from more than 7,000 citizens, the team finally drafted the document, whose contents have been the subject of speculation and political bickering among leaders and ordinary citizens. Critics of BBI saw it as a way of creating political seats for some sections of the political class.

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In a bid to parry away these views, the BBI team has recommenced that the PM will only earn a salary as an MP and there will be no additional pay for the premier role.

While the president must go around the country seeking votes, the PM will be a deal maker, who must be able to cobble together political coalitions that will propel him to the position.

The proposals mean that parties could enter into political alliances before an election and sponsor a presidential candidate and PM-designate. It also opens the possibility of the president and the PM coming from different parties.

It also means that with the backing of a majority of MPs in the House, a prime minister could easily instigate impeachment proceedings against a sitting president. The PM can only be removed from office through a vote of no confidence, or if he is fired by the president.

Strong opposition

The BBI report recommends a strong opposition in parliament, which will be tasked with placing checks on the government, playing key roles in prime ministerial and ministerial question time in parliament.

The question times were abolished after the 2010 Constitution took effect in the 11th  Parliament, as Cabinet Secretaries ceased being MPs.

The Executive members have been responding to questions through their appearances before committees. The committee chairperson, in turn, gives the responses on the floor of the houses.

The system has, however, attracted criticism from MPs, who have been complaining of delays in getting responses, hence the clamour to have Cabinet Secretaries named from among legislators.

And just like was the case under the former constitutional dispensation before 2010, the Leader of Official Opposition will be required to name a Shadow Cabinet.

But unlike the case in the 10th Parliament when the positions of Leader of Government Business and Leader of Official Opposition were present in the House, the BBI envisages a situation where the opposition figure will not have voting powers in the House, as an ex-officio MP.

On the Executive, the BBI report proposes: “The Cabinet shall be drawn from both parliamentarians and technocrats with the latter being made ex-officio members of parliament upon successful parliamentary approval.”

The report also wants the position of Cabinet Secretary reverted to Cabinet Minister.

“To ensure more effective political direction and parliamentary accountability, there shall be a position of Minister of State that will be appointed from members of the National Assembly and taking direction in their ministerial duties from Cabinet Ministers. These Ministers of State will continue to earn their salary as MP with no additional salary for their ministerial role,” states the report.

According to the team, Kenyans opted for a home-grown inclusive system.

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