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Leaders divided as winner-takes-all debate rages

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. [Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto's reservations on the cure for the winner-takes-it-all as proposed by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report has opened a vibrant debate on the issue.

The BBI report proposes an expansion of the Executive to create a new position of prime minister with two deputies.

Also in the proposal is that the runner-up of the presidential election becomes an ex-officio MP and the leader of official opposition.

During the public launch of the report at Bomas of Kenya on Monday, Ruto questioned how the winner-takes-it-all problem would be addressed if a party won the presidency and the majority of seats in National Assembly.

“Have we solved the winner-takes-it-all question? The real elephant in this whole conversation was what was identified as winner-takes-all and aspects of inclusivity,” he said.

But yesterday, Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo, who attended the Bomas meeting, said the Leader of Opposition having space as an ex-officio member in the House means a lot.

“A person like Raila Odinga who commands the support of the majority of the country should be in the House leading his troops,” said Odhiambo.

She said the five top executive positions if spread to reflect the face of Kenya will go a long way in addressing the winner-takes-it-all issue.

Orange Democratic Movement Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said the thinking behind the creation of the position of prime minister and deputies is further dispersing the presidential power. Sifuna said any move by Kenyans to share power should be welcome, especially given where the country has come from.

Opposition Leader

“The solution to the winner-takes-all question is in the creation of the office of official leader of opposition. That way they still have a role to play within formal State structures as opposed to the current situation,” he said.

Sifuna said the president does not appoint the PM but nominates the leader of the majority party or coalition of parties in the National Assembly.

“So the leaders of all parties and coalitions will be known going into elections. Even now they are known. Then Parliament can actually reject or endorse. So the power to determine who can be PM lies squarely with the political parties and the National Assembly and not the president,” he said.

“The other noise you are hearing is all propaganda of people who either see themselves as the next president or don't want any of the current powers of that office to be interfered with or have not read the BBI document.”

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said the "winner takes all and loser goes home hungry," is cured by the fact that the loser gets an official position.

He said the winner-takes-all question and limited positions is what led to the tyranny of numbers theory, and any presidential candidate will have to think carefully about winning the presidency and getting majority seats in Parliament, adding that parliaments all over the world are led by the ruling party.

“In my own view, the first principle is a clear victory in presidential and parliamentary seats. The loser will be Official Leader of Opposition. That does not mean the loser cannot accept defeat and agree to work with the Government. I would rather we open doors to ensure our presidential elections do not cause unnecessary anxiety,” said Mutula Jnr.

“If a presidential candidate cannot marshall enough seats in Parliament, they must be prepared to nominate a person who may be from a rival party to be PM. They say dammed if you do, dammed if you don't.”

Equity in resources

However, MPs Hilary Kosgei (Kipkelion West), Nelson Koech (Belgut) and Silvanus Osoro (South Mugirango) – all Ruto allies – believe inclusivity has not been adequately addressed in the report.

“The current proposal doesn't cure, in fact, it entrenches exclusion further. The whole narrative about winner not taking all is a hypocritical talk and I don't believe in that principle. The essence of democracy is so that there is a winner and a loser,” said Koech.

He said in an election, the loser goes to the Opposition to check on the Government, which is given the latitude to choose those who believe in the party manifesto.

“If losers will have a stake in government then why should we waste time and resources going for elections? We'd rather sit at a table and dish out dockets,” said Koech.

He said the only reasonable way to ensure inclusivity is to give everybody resources fairly beyond the county and CDF allocations. Kosgei argued that elections are called to give the people a choice to pick among the competing candidates and the person who articulate issues best gets elected.

“Elections are not called to unite people, but to pick a candidate who best articulates the issues. The loser has the duty to offer checks and balances on the Government,” he said.

“What has been provided for in the BBI works very well in a scenario where big regional leaders coalesce in the same party or coalition of parties before or after the election and have sufficient seats for most of them. And when you have regional kingpins together, you reduce tension and possible wars,” said Pokot South MP David Pkosing.

According to Osoro, the proposals do not cure the winner-takes-it-all issue but has the winner take everything.

“To mitigate this, we perhaps need to revamp the office of the official opposition, create shadow ministers with a budget and build political parties strongly. Inclusivity will be realised,” he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila received the report last Wednesday at the Kisii State Lodge.

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