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Tall order for leaders with PM dreams as MP seat is a must

By Jacob Ng’etich and Wilfred Ayaga | November 29th 2020

Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi during the launch of a signature collection campaign for the Building Bridges Initiative at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre on November 25. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

A number of Members of Parliament could end up becoming sacrificial lambs if political heavyweights target their constituency seats in the scramble for new positions if the referendum passes.

The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2020 proposes the creation of the positions of prime minister, two deputies and leader of official Opposition. Half of the Cabinet after 2022 will also come from members of the National Assembly.

These proposals will likely force interested politicians who were once MPs to return to the grassroots to fight for seats they abandoned many years ago.

The Bill, for instance, proposes that the PM must be the leader of a political party or coalition of parties in the National Assembly.

Politicians interested in the position will have to seek parliamentary seats, which could see incumbent MPs losing their grip on constituencies.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka said most bigwigs may be forced to run for MP seats to boost their chances.

“Most of the senior politicians in national politics will have to review their decisions. Most are likely to run back to the constituencies. This is how one can have a chance serving in the government if they are not running for the presidency,” said Kalonzo told Sunday Standard on his return from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The flip-side of the proposed changes is that battle for the presidency will be left to serious candidates who have the best chances.

Vie for president

Deputy President William Ruto, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana have said they will vie for the presidency. The other veteran politicians are yet to make their positions public.

Exactly one year ago, while addressing leaders from Mt Kenya region at Sagana State Lodge, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he would not have a problem if he was asked to become prime minister after he completes his second term in office.

“I do not know the contents of the BBI report yet. I hear people claiming Uhuru Kenyatta wants to become the prime minister of Kenya. I wouldn’t mind being in leadership in such a post, though let us deal with the current situation first,” he said.

If this becomes reality, Kenyatta will square it out with Moses Kuria for the Gatundu South seat. A victory would send him back to Parliament where he would be eligible to become premier.

Kalonzo, however, said it is unlikely that Kenyatta would want to step down from a two-term president to an MP.

Other leaders who might consider running for MPs' seats are Kalonzo, ODM leader Raila Odinga, Senator Gideon Moi and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

John Chebii, the Moi University School of Law Dean, said some heavyweights are backing the BBI because it would allow them to become ministers or even prime minister.

“There are also the current governors who will seek constituency seats. Initially, some county bosses thought they would become regional governors but this will not be the case. However, it is the people to make the decision,” Dr Chebii said.

He argued that it would be unfair for the leaders to assume that because of the powerful positions they held, they would easily be re-elected as MPs.

“Let us look at the performance of these people before voting for them. We should be very careful. Let us vote for the right people and those who are pacemakers in transformative leadership. Again, if people have served in leadership positions, what is the purpose of coming back? Let us give others a chance.”

There is also the matter of 25 governors who have served their final terms, and who will be on the lookout for seats in order to remain relevant.

It is also likely that a number of senators may quit to run for National Assembly seats, which could lead to do-or-die battles in some constituencies.

If Raila choses to pursue the PM's post, he would have to contest against Nixon Korir or Kibra’s Imran Okoth in Lang’ata or Kibra, respectively.

Korir yesterday welcomed a Raila candidature, saying he would be a worthy challenger. “It will be exciting to have Raila run against me. This will be the battle royale. It will be a high-profile contest.”

Kalonzo would have to battle it out with Mwingi North MP Paul Nzengu, while Mudavadi would be seeking to oust Sabatia MP Alfred Agoi.

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