A reduction in the number of members of Parliament and scrapping of the women representatives and deputy governors positions are some of the proposals the Thirdway Alliance Party is pushing through its ‘Punguza Mzigo’ campaign.
The proposals are among the 16 areas in the Constitution earmarked for change as the party chaired by Dr Ekuru Aukot prepares to submit its draft Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on February 21.
The party is also proposing a one seven-year term for president compared to the current situation where a president is entitled to a maximum of two terms of five years each.
The initiative comes after 11 months of extensive public participation in 20 of the 47 counties that collected the views and signatures of 1.3 million Kenyans.
The signatures must first be verified before submitting the bill to county assemblies.
Thirdway Alliance focused on an online campaign targeting about 22 million social media users, who are also registered voters.
According to a document in our possession, the party is targeting to strengthen parliament and devolution, end gender imbalance, demystify the presidency, reduce the public wage bill, enforce integrity and a reduce the cost of elections in the country.
Proposals by different individuals and entities on the areas they want amended in the constitution have been presented to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a product of the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Odinga.
However, Thirdway Alliance chose to go its own way though there is a likelihood of harmonising the proposals to come up with a document that will be presented to the people.
Although some, including Mr Odinga, have called for the expansion of the Executive to include the post of prime minister and two deputies, Dr Aukot’s party instead wants the presidency to be demystified to address the culture of historical post-election violence - particularly when the incumbent is defending the seat.
Deputy President William Ruto, while delivering a talk at Chatham House in the United Kingdom, opposed the creation of the premiership, instead rooting for a strong presidency with a strong parliament.
Thirdway Alliance chairman Miruru Waweru says that the proposed one-term presidency will end the do-or-die contests whenever an incumbent is challenged.
“There is an established trend of violence in all years where the incumbent seeks re-election. The violence can be traced to the incumbent and/or by a rogue opposition determined to capture power,” Mr Waweru says.
He says that the violence in 1991/92, 1997, 2007 and 2017 was not a coincidence. “It is clear that there was no violence in 2002 and 2013 and the only viable explanation is absence of an incumbent seeking re-election,” he says.
He also argues that sitting presidents tend to focus more on re-election rather than service delivery.
“Our political history and experience has shown that a first-term president wastes the last two to three years focusing on re-election campaigns and/or promises, which are often focused on individuals or a group of political friends.”
He says that there is accelerated theft of public money in the last two years of a first-term presidency and that there are more than enough examples.
Mr Waweru cites the unaccounted for Eurobond, Anglo-leasing, and the Goldenberg scandals, among many others, and the need to protect the country from mischievous presidential candidates.
There has been gruumbling that Kenyans are over-represented in legislative bodies — parliament and county assemblies — compared to more stable democracies in the world.
To address this, Thirdway Alliance is proposing to reduce the number of MPs both in the National Assembly and the Senate from the current 416 to 147 as well as scrapping the 47 women representative positions.
The thinking is to abolish the 290 constituencies and instead use each of the 47 counties as a single constituency for purposes of parliamentary election to Senate and National Assembly.
By doing so, one man and one woman should be elected to the National Assembly and nominate only six members from special interest groups, which must adhere to gender parity rules. t
Currently, 12 individuals are nominated to the National Assembly. The party is also proposing that senators be elected using the 47 counties as a single constituency.
This will mean a reduction from the current 67 senators.
Thirdway Alliance's views on the structure of Parliament have found consonance with those of Mr Odinga, Dr Ruto and different organisations, who are unanimous that the Senate should be made the upper House with veto powers over the National Assembly.
Mr Waweru adds that this will ensure the National Assembly is properly scrutinised, including reviewing all its decisions as is the case in the bicameral system of parliamentary democracies.
“Our current Senate in its current form remains a laughing stock of the world. It does not have powers to veto some rather injurious legislation that come from the National Assembly.”
Mr Waweru cites the VAT Act of 2013, and the Division of Revenue Bill (no. 7) of 2018, which was unconstitutional but could not be rejected by Senate because it did not have veto power.
Senators could also have questioned the National Assembly’s rejection of the report relating to the possible containment of mercury in the smuggled imported sugar, he opines.
Comparatively, China has 1,200 representatives in both houses for a population of 1.4 billion people, India has 800 representatives for a population of 1.3 billion people while the United States of America has 535 representatives for a population of 350 million people.
“It does not, therefore, make sense that a population of 46 million people from a developing country like Kenya would have and able to sustain 416 representatives in both Houses of Parliament. That is why this campaign is dubbed Punguza Mzigo,” he says.
The party wants to increase county share allocation to at least 35 percent from the current 15 percent of national revenue.
Nasa, in its document that is still work in progress, wants at least 45 percent of national revenue devolved to the counties.
Mr Waweru’s justification of increased allocation is to spur economic development in the devolved units so as to attain meaningful inclusivity.