Let us adopt no-party hybrid parliamentary system to unify nation

Friday November 10 2017

parliamentary system

A voter in Uasin Gishu County is having his details verified before voting in the repeat presidential poll on October 26, 2017. Maybe we should try a home-grown no-party hybrid parliamentary system. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By HINDPAL S. JABBAL
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Since Kenya’s independence in 1963, we have tried almost all democratic systems of governance.

We have tried a two-party system, a one-party system with autocratic leadership, a multiparty system and a grand coalition.

Now, it is back to a two-party system based on tribal groupings and tyranny of numbers.

MULTIPARTY
The nation seems divided into two because of deep-rooted tribal affiliations, a personality cult and a winner-takes-all mentality with exclusivity of the Opposition.

Since 1992, when we adopted the multiparty system, six out of seven presidential elections have been disputed on grounds of electoral fraud.

The one held on August 8 was nullified through a petition.

As a result, a repeat presidential election was held on October 26 but opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the race.

IDEOLOGY
In the past 54 years since independence, we have elected just four presidents from only two tribes with enormous power and wealth centered on the presidency.

All the ruling parties and their senior members primarily have one motto: “It is our right to eat.”

Even leaders in opposition parties are not much different.

They are also tied to a few personalities and tribal chiefs, waiting for “their turn to eat” if elected, with very little ideological differences from the ruling parties of which they were once senior members.

ECONOMY
Corruption has now reached epidemic proportions and seems to have been institutionalised across the board, both in the public as well as the private sector.

We have created an unequal society of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ with the top 0.5 per cent of the population having more wealth than the bottom 50 per cent.

The average GDP growth for the past 10 years since Vision 2030 was launched has remained around five per cent.

Due to our culture of dependency on outsiders and our appetite for foreign goods, we have created an import oriented consumer economy, with our import bill almost three times that of our exports.

INCLUSIVITY
The time has now come to make radical changes to our system of governance based on fair play and inclusivity for the entire country rather than loosely keep talking of civil disobedience, secession plans, and drumming up war cries.

Having tried almost all democratic systems of governance, maybe we should try a home-grown no-party hybrid parliamentary system, where people will elect leaders of their choice, not imposed upon them by tribal chiefs or party hawks.

In this system, MPs will be democratically elected as individuals by their constituencies, without any party affiliations and without the patronage of any godfathers and future presidential candidates.

ELECTORAL COLLEGE
The 290 MPs will then group themselves into nine provinces (the old eight and Rift Valley split into two), with 12 MPs nominated from each of the nine provinces, to form an electoral college of 108 MPs.

The top-ranking individual from each province will become the leader of that province.

The electoral college will then elect the president and his deputy, and maybe a prime minister and his deputy, from the top nine provincial leaders, through a secret electronic balloting system based on ranking order for each position.

This system will work broadly on the following lines, and shown in the accompanying chart.

1. Each of the current 290 constituencies will elect their own MPs through a normal democratic election process as ‘independents’ without any party affiliations or patronage of any godfather.

Their election will be solely based on their past track record and their vision for the future.

Any number of candidates can, of course, vie for the seat in each constituency.

NOMINATED

However, only those who garner over 25 per cent of votes cast in each constituency will be eligible for State funding.

2. Once elected, all the MPs will be grouped into the nine provinces (the old eight, plus the Rift Valley Province, split into North and South, because of its enormous size).

Each province will be numbered A, B, C, to I.

3. To avoid the ‘tyranny of numbers’, each provincial group (for example 44 in former Eastern Province and 18 in former North Eastern Province) will then nominate only 12 MPs from its area, placing the top four in a ranking order 1, 2, 3, 4 and the other eight in any order.

The top-ranking MP will become the leader of the province and potential candidate for the top positions, including the presidency.

The nomination of the 12 MPs in each province should also ensure that at least one is selected from each county (except Nairobi, which has 17 constituencies) and that at least one woman member is among the top four.

SENIOR OFFICERS
4. All the 12 nominated MPs in each of the nine provinces, 108 in total, become part of the electoral college.

They will then sit as a group to elect for the four slots from among the top nine provincial leaders in a ranking order 1, 2, 3 and 4 as shown in row 1 in the chart.

Electoral structure

Electoral structure of proposed system

No. 1 may be designated as the president-elect, No. 2: prime minister, No. 3: deputy president and No. 4: deputy PM.

All of them will have distinct roles to play, including supervision of the devolved government spread across all the provinces.

5. Once the slots for these top four leaders are filled, then the other positions of senior government officers (for example, Cabinet ministers, speakers and leader of government business) will be equitably filled from the remaining 32 MPs in the top four rows of the electoral college, in proportion to their numerical strength in Parliament.

CABINET MINISTERS
There will be no slot for the leader of opposition.

This slot will be taken up by the PM’s office or such other senior officer mutually agreed on.

Similarly, the Cabinet ministers will replace the Cabinet Secretaries.

6. The nine governors and their deputies will be democratically elected separately for each province, the same way as the election of MPs.

The provincial MCAs will also be elected for each province.

All the counties will be administered by a deputy governor, reporting to their respective governors.

7. All the nine provincial governors may be supervised by the office of the PM, as part of the devolved government.

8. There will be no need for a separate Senate, as there are now only nine, and not 47, governors.

And they will be supervised by the PM’s office.

UNITY
The above structure of a no-party hybrid parliamentary system of government, with the president and maybe a PM elected by Parliament, is a suggested alternative.

For it to be given a concrete shape and structure, it will require a lot of goodwill and soul-searching by the existing ruling and opposition parties.

It will also need detailed discussions and public debate by various stakeholders and constitutional experts.

There is no doubt that the proposed system, even in a modified form, has a far greater potential of unifying the country; have full representation of all the counties and tribes in running the government; and changing the culture of patronising and rent-seeking.

DIALOGUE

It will also reduce rampant corruption, and lead to sharing of the national cake equitably and a balanced growth in all sectors of economy.

Until such time that a permanent solution is found through a referendum and change of the Constitution, the proposed structure of equitable distribution of Cabinet and senior positions based on the size and party representation in each province can be temporarily used through constructive dialogue between Jubilee and the National Super Alliance to resolve the current impasse.

Hindpal S. Jabbal is former chairman of Energy Regulatory Commission and son of Late Makhan Singh, the ‘Forgotten Hero’ of Kenya’s pre-independence era. Email: [email protected]