Brave new world for county governments


Brave new world for county governments

Governors of Isiolo, Tana River and Lamu counties have no representatives from their parties in county assemblies

As members of county assemblies were sworn in this week, they came face to face with a new, tougher world, different from the one they found in 2013, Nation Newsplex has found.

A pay cut, low barriers to entry, a critical electorate willing to wield the ballot, and the difficulty in impeaching governors mean that the job of a county representative is now more challenging than it was in 2013.

Things are not any easier for governors, just over half (55 per cent) of whom have to govern  with their own parties facing minorities.

During their first term, county assembly members asserted themselves, winning higher pay from the Salaries and Remunerations Commission (SRC) in 2013. They even fought physically amongst themselves.

When the election candidates were gazetted, it was clear that MCAs would be in a difficult fight, with each seat attracting numerous contestants. For example, in Kisii County, Borabu Chitago Ward attracted 33 candidates.

On August 8, 346 out of the 1,450 elected MCAs retained their seats, according to totals from gazette notices.  While 655 incumbents were defeated at the polls, another 447 opted not to run again, paving the way for new entrants.

This means only 24 per cent of MCAs returned to the legislature, a lower re-election rate than governors, MPs and Senators at 47 per cent, 40 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively. However, MCAs got off lightly compared to Women County Representatives, of whom only 19 per cent were re-elected.

The average re-election rate per county was 26 per cent, and only four counties, Taita–Taveta, Kwale, Turkana and Samburu re-elected more than half their county representatives.

County representatives will also have to contend with the difficulty of impeaching governors. In total, five governors were impeached, though none actually was removed from office. In Nyeri County, 34 MCAs memorably spent the night in the county assembly building to do it.

Among these counties, re-election rates varied: Embu (35 per cent), Kericho (23 per cent), Muranga (11 per cent), Nyeri (7 per cent) and Makueni (3 per cent).

According to Professor Macharia Munene, who teaches history and international relations at USIU, there is cause of optimism. “The calibre of MCAs has improved compared to last time. So there’ll be a lot of meeting of the mind in each of the counties. It boils down to the brilliance of the governor and the speaker to work with everyone in the assembly”, he says. “So there’s expected to be more honest differences, and less cases of political mischief.”

MCAs also come into office earning less than they did the previous term.  In 2013, MCAs agreed a pay increase with the SRC, from Sh79,200 to Sh123,750 per month, rising to Sh165,000 by the end of the term.

Earlier this year, the SRC reduced salaries from Sh165,000 to Sh144,375 per month. That means in total, MCAs would be paid Sh2.871 billion, down from 2.512 billion saving the taxpayer Sh359 million every year.

DELICATE BALANCING ACT

Across the country, each governor will have to work with members of the county assembly to pass legislation. Some governors can look forward to assemblies where 90 per cent of members come from their own parties. They include Cyprian Awiti of Homa Bay, Jackson Mandago of Uasin Gishu, Joyce Laboso of Bomet, Hasssan Ali Joho of Mombasa, Alex Tolgos of Elgeyo Marakwet and Patrick Gakuru of Nyeri  

However, only 42 per cent of governors have half or more of all MCAs from their own party. Some governors’ parties have minorities in the assemblies. Mandera Governor Ali Roba (Jubilee) who withstood stiff competition from Hassan Noor Hassan (Economic Freedom Party) will have to work with 17 EFP MCAs, who far outnumber the six Jubilee MCAs. The county assembly has 30 elected MCAs.

In Machakos, Governor Alfred Mutua, who defected from the Wiper Party after a fall-out with the party leader and Nasa co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka, and formed the Maendeleo Chap Chap party, has a county assembly dominated by Nasa-affiliated parties (23 out of 40). Maendeleo Chap Chap only garnered eight seats.

Although he defeated Jubilee’s candidate, former Senator John Munyes, Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, has to work with 14 Jubilee MCAs, compared to 12 from his party, ODM. Kwale’s Salim Mvurya defected from ODM to Jubilee. The assembly has six Jubilee MCAs, compared to 12 seats occupied by Nasa-affiliated parties.

More starkly, the governors of Isiolo, Tana River, and Laikipia have no MCAs from their own parties in their county assemblies.

According to Professor Macharia Munene, difference in political parties is not necessarily a cause for antagonism between the governors and the county representatives. “Each of the officials elected has an obligation to serve the county. The political parties are second, ” he says. "It's up to the governor and the speaker who is guiding the respective assemblies to work together for the interest of the county."

Nairobi County has just over half of all MCAs from Jubilee which is Governor Mike Sonko’s party (52 per cent), a similar proportion to Busia (51 per cent).

Meru County has the largest number of MCAs elected as independent candidates (eight), which is 18 per cent of the county assembly. Bungoma, Migori and Kericho each have 7 independent MCAs each.

17 MCAs retained their seats as independent candidates in spite of missing nominations from the Jubilee Party. Other parties whose aspirants defected and won as independent candidates were ODM (3), Wiper Party (2) and FORD-Kenya (1).

Some incumbent MCAs sought other elective seats only to lose. In Taita Taveta, Cromwel Mwarigha ran for the Wundayi constituency MP’s seat on a FORD-Kenya ticket, but lost. In Mombasa, Jabess Mdhai of Kongowea Ward ran unsuccessfully for the Mombasa Senate seat as an independent candidate. Anthony Kenga of Rabai Ward also ran for the Rabai parliamentary seat but lost.

SHARE BY PARTIES

According to Gazette Notice No. 8239, Jubilee had the largest share of elected MCAs, with 582 MCAs (40 per cent), followed by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) with 341 MCAs (23 per cent), suggesting their candidates benefited from running with those two large parties.

Independent candidates, taken collectively, ranked third with 108 seats (eight per cent) ahead of the Wiper Party, with 84 seats (six per cent).

Parties such as Safina, Restore and Build Kenya, Peoples Party of Kenya, Diligence Development Alliance, Devolution Party of Kenya, Agano Party, Party of Democratic Unity and Chama Cha Uzalendo won only one ward seat each.

BY –ELECTIONS

Although the country has 1450 wards, the list of winners gazetted by IEBC included only 1447 names. One MCA, George Abaja of ODM, was unelected unopposed in West Seme Ward, Nyamira County, after being the only gazetted candidate for the seat.

The IEBC declared another two seats would be filled through by-elections after candidates contesting them died before the general election. Ibrahim Abdullahi Muktar, a Nasa candidate for Masalani Ward, Garissa County, died in a road accident while John Onsomu Okebiro, a Jubilee candidate for Bogichora Ward in Nyamira county, died after falling ill during the campaign.