Why gender rule could elude next Parliament

Women MPs from left Joyce Kamene(Machakos), Catherine Wambilianga(Bungoma) and Zulekha Juma(Nominated at Parliament during the debate of the Two Third Gender Rule bill. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The 13th Parliament will most likely fail to meet the constitutional two-thirds gender principle, a breakdown of the demographics of the candidates cleared to vie in the August 9 General Election shows.

This is in addition to the disproportionate number of youth cleared to seek elective office.

A report by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) shows that the electoral agency has cleared 1,962 female candidates to contest.

Male candidates, on the other hand, account for 14,137 candidates cleared to contest the presidential, governorship and parliamentary seats. Only one candidate belongs to “other gender.”

The report comes in the wake of IEBC’s rejection of all the nomination lists submitted by the various political parties for failing to attain the two-thirds gender mark.

While female candidates could end up winning more seats than they previously have, the figures released by the IEBC lower their probability of bagging an equitable number of elective seats when compared to men.

That is because every woman contesting an elective seat will possibly be up against 13 male candidates. The disproportion is despite the fact that the number of male and female voters is almost equal.

The presidential race is a men-only contest. William Ruto, Raila Odinga, George Wajackoyah and Waihiga Mwaure were cleared to seek to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

At the deputy presidential level, the probability that a woman could succeed Ruto is 3:1, given all but the DP picked a woman as their running mate. A more realistic projection would see the said chance drop to 50 per cent.

Raila’s running mate Martha Karua stands the most realistic shot at becoming deputy president among the three – Justina Wamae, Ruth Mucheru and herself. Rigathi Gachagua stands an almost equal chance as Karua, going by recent opinion polls.

The implications of Parliament failing to meet the gender threshold include an advisory by the Chief Justice to dissolve the bicameral Parliament. A similar one by former Chief Justice David Maraga over the composition of the current august House was, seemingly, ignored by the president.

Senate, with 22 female senators, out of 67, elected and nominated, fall one senator short of meeting the strict threshold. Only four – Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo) and Agnes Kavindu Muthama (Machakos) were elected.

The National Assembly, with 76 female MPs, elected and nominated, out of 349, fairs worse.

The Council of Governors is not any better. Only three – Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Anne Waiguru and the late Joyce Laboso – out of 47 female governors were elected in the previous election. The number still stands at three with the entry of Nairobi’s Anne Kananu.

This figure could go higher given parties have handed tickets to a number of female candidates with a realistic chance of winning.

Despite accounting for 40 per cent of the more than 19 million voters, the youth could be disenfranchised in the forthcoming election. Some 4,508 youth, a figure that is barely a third of the total numbers of candidates cleared, will be seeking elective office. Those aged 35 years and above, 11,592 of them, dominate the various races.