American jurist and politician Earl Warren once said: “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities.”
The point here is that in a representative democracy, the size of a constituency or the amount of land or length of border should not play a role in how much representation a particular constituency has in our National Assembly.
The only number that matters should be that of people, as they are the masters in a democracy.
Our current Constitution was written in the aftermath of the crisis that emanated from the 2007 elections and the massive loss of life and internal displacement it caused.
It was absolutely necessary to keep the peace and make all Kenyans feel that they are represented among those in power.
However, it was largely a false feeling.
If we look at the most recent census of the Kenyan population then it becomes even clearer that the number of elected officials from each county is highly skewed and thus unrepresentative.
Just as an example, Lamu County has 143,920 citizens and has two elected representatives in the National Assembly. On the other hand, Kwale County has a population of 866,820, six times the amount of Lamu.
This should mean that according to the ratio used in Lamu they would have 12 elected representatives in Parliament, yet they only have four.
Breaking the numbers further down, in Lamu there is an elected representative for every 71,960 citizens. In Kwale, there is a Member of Parliament for every 216,705 residents of that county.
The bottom line is that there is a major demographic discrepancy in proportional representation among the counties and this needs to be rectified to ensure that each Kenyan is treated equally in our representative democracy.
For those who see this as some sort of trick to downgrade the status of certain counties, it should not be an excuse to lessen the number of representatives from any one county, but the larger counties should receive representation according to their numbers.
In fact, as the Building Bridges Initiative appears to be endorsing, it would be even more preferable for each county to have their members elected according to the proportion of the votes they receive.
Whereas we have currently a “winner-takes-all” system where each constituency is its own contest, it would be far more democratic and representative if each county’s votes would be broken down by how much each party received.
If a particular party wins 50 per cent of the vote in a certain county then they should receive as close to fifty per cent of the representation, a party with 30 per cent receives that measure of seats, and so on. This means that more parties will be represented in Parliament and thus more Kenyans will feel that they have a voice and see how their votes matter.
Obviously, the heart of this matter is not facts, numbers and figures. Each number is a person with the same and equal rights as any other.
The Constitution of 2010 was created to serve a certain purpose, to ensure the peace and security of our people and end the violence.
In 2019, we have to seek a new purpose, one that creates greater equality and equity among Kenyans of all backgrounds.
I believe that is what President Uhuru Kenyatta has in mind with the issue of constitutional reform.
The Kenya of 2019 is not the same as the Kenya of 2010 when our Constitution was written. I believe it is a more mature, sensible and peaceful country.
We had traumatic elections in 2017 but we did not descend into violence.
But it is time to look at our political system once and for all and ensure it meets the needs of every single Kenyan.
Our current system clearly fails many, but it does not have to.
Michael Mugwang’a is a communications consultant. [email protected]