Mt Kenya to get lion’s share of new MP slots

Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata. [File, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s home county of Kiambu will get the lion’s share of the 70 extra constituencies if proposals of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report are implemented.

The report, which was launched by President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga proposes an expanded legislature in a system that abolishes nominated seats.

In the National Assembly, BBI proposes 360 members elected from single and multiple-member constituencies.

The extra 70 MPs will be drawn from constituencies with large populations whose residents face the risk of being under-represented. The strategy is expected to also address the controversial gender rule and representation of youth and people with disability.

“As a region, we have complained against under-representation in Parliament. Kiharu has about 300,000 residents but has one MP. Some constituencies have 5,000 residents. The imbalance needs to be corrected in a fair manner. I am happy BBI did not kill any constituency hence no one will complain,” Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata told Saturday Standard.

According to Kang’ata, the proportional representation is a positive electoral mechanism which will correct under-representation in the Mt Kenya region. He says it encourages the multi-party system since it incentivises growth of small parties. Kang’ata is a proponent of the “one-man-one-shilling vote” principle.

“Parties get an incentive to go national as opposed to going regional. Under represented persons, like persons with disabilities, will get priority slots,” he added.

Currently, there are 290 elected members of the National Assembly, 47 women reps each representing a county and 12 nominated MPs representing women, youth and people with disability. This makes a total of 349. The BBI report, in its proposals, noted that the success and sustainability of democracy depend on fairness of representation in the electoral system.

Population factors

The report says Kenyans expressed a powerful attachment to their right to fair representation that responds to their needs.

It recommended the existing constituencies be saved, including the protected seats because they have become key for representation of sparsely populated areas.

In the proposals explained by the BBI taskforce secretariat to the leadership of Parliament on Thursday at Windsor Club, Kiambu County will get 21 new MPs should the proposals sail through.

The technical team picked by Uhuru and Raila to advise on changes that require policy, ordinary legislation or an amendment to the Constitution, told the meeting that the extra seats will effectively cure under-representation.

In the proposal by the secretariat, Nairobi gets 11, Mombasa gets 9 while Kilifi has 4 of the 70 new seats. In the breakdown, Meru would get 2, Kirinyaga 2, Nakuru 2, Nyeri 1, Kakamega 2, Nandi 2, Kericho 2, Vihiga 1, Kajiado 2, Kitui 2, Makueni 1, Uasin Gishu 1, Nyandarua 1, Laikipia 1, Embu 1 and Kisii 1.

The creation of the extra seats, according to the BBI co-secretary Paul Mwangi, was added to help safeguard some constituencies at risk of being wiped out by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) through boundaries review.

IEBC is expected to review the borders of constituencies before August 2021 given the law requires such a process to be conducted a year before the General Election. The first review in 2010 led by the Andrew Ligale-led boundary commission protected 27 constituencies that did not meet the population threshold set by the law.

Mwangi said while seeking to save 27 constituencies that were at risk of being scrapped, the BBI report suggested an addition in the number of MPs.

“We thought it was prudent to save the 27 constituencies from being scrapped and that is why we created more seats that would benefit women, youth and people with disabilities and cure the population issue as well,” said Mwangi.

Lamu East, Lamu West, Mvita, Mwatate, Wundanyi, Voi, Bura, Galole, Isiolo South, Kilome, Laisamis, North Horr, Saku, Mbeere North, Ndaragwa, Tetu, Mukurwe-ini, Othaya and Kangema are some of the constituencies that risk losing their status for not meeting the population quota. Others are Mathioya, Samburu East, Marakwet East, Keiyo North, Mogotio, Vihiga and Budalang’i.

Registered voters

Chairman of the National Assembly’s committee for Justice and Legal Affairs Muturi Kigano said that through the extra seats, the people will get equal representation. “There is an average requirement that 130,000 registered voters is the threshold. Given that, some constituencies like Ruiru with huge population should get three MPs to ensure equitable representation,” said Kigano.

National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya said those are proposals that had not been firmed up.

“All those in the BBI report are just proposals that we will have to be brought before Kenyans for approval. We have organised a retreat for MPs so that we can have them understand and explain the proposals to the people,” said Kimunya.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said the proposal will be contentious.

“There is no clarity on how women, youth and people with disability will get the seats given that they are up for grabs by any candidate. We might end up with even more men than we have now,” said Mutula Junior.

Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina said battle lines had been drawn between those who want consensus and those who want to ignore contrary views.

“We want BBI to capture the aspirations of the people,” he added.