It has not previously been considered a major political force. This tag was reserved for the Big Four, namely the governing Jubilee Party, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM) and Ford Kenya.
But on Wednesday, Thirdway Alliance Kenya quietly but forcefully entered the big-time.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced its acceptance of Thirdway’s 1,222,541-voter backed change the constitution bill.
That is a massive achievement. After collection of one million signatures, the next step will be an acid test because a party seeking to change the Constitution must take the referendum route. And efforts to change the basic law must get popular support.
But, garnering a million signatures is no mean feat. The 2014 change the Constitution move dubbed Okoa Kenya (Rescue Kenya) of ODM, WDM and Ford Kenya, was declared a flop by IEBC in 2016. Why? It did not meet the 1,000,000 signature threshold.
The reason Thirdway has forcefully hit the big-time is the reasoned content of its bill.
It reflects floating of a myriad of ideas; serious thinking and debating; brave picking and discarding; and sober analysis of cause and effect.
It is why the centrepiece of Thirdway's bill is the Kenyan taxpayer and the financial burden that is the wage bill that he and she bear.
This is neatly captured in the iconic name of the initiative, Punguza Mizigo (Reduce the Burdens).
It is important to recall that the failed Okoa Kenya bill dealt almost exclusively with the reform of the electoral process or IEBC and only niggardly with devolution.
The Constitution belongs to the people and change of it must be about them. So how does Thirdway propose to reduce the financial burdens weighing down on the taxpayer and save her loads of money?
I will pick just four of Thirdway’s 16 compelling ideas. Kenyans are over-represented, therefore, reduce the number of MPs from 416 to 147 and hence reducing the annual cost of running Parliament from Sh36.8 billion to Sh31.8 billion.
Thirdway proposes that the salary of the President be capped at Sh500,000 and of MPs at Sh300,000 and that there be no nominated MPs, Senators or Members of County Assemblies (MCAs).
Thirdway boldly suggests that the electoral ward becomes the primary unit of development and converting the Constituency Development Fund to ward cash.
The point here appears to be that if the ward is the focus of development and devolution as the star of the Constitution, there is no justification for the huge constellation of MPs and Senators in Nairobi.
My last pick is the proposal that the presidential tenure consist of a single term of seven years.
The aim is to avoid the fierce electoral battles that involve incumbents and cost the country dear in mayhem, murder, property, livelihoods and restoration of law and order at elections.
I am excited. I have previously campaigned for a smaller public wage bill; said Kenyans need more from MPs than more MPs; and argued for strengthening devolution rather than tinkering with the executive.
IEBC has forwarded the bill to the 47 County Assemblies. Each is expected to scrutinise and accept or reject it before passing the same to the Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate for the parliamentary stage.
All had been quiet since Thirdway submitted the bill and signatures to IEBC in February.
Ominously, now the politics is kicking in. One, an ill motive is sought. The question has been asked, is Thirdway’s push funded locally or by foreigners?
Two, attempts will be made to both influence and intimidate MCAs not to pass the bill and therefore deny it support of at least 24 of the 47 counties to enable it move to the parliamentary stage.
Three, some say the Thirdway has stolen the thunder of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), of President Kenyatta and veteran politico Raila Odinga, which is collecting views on change of the Constitution.
Hardly. I rather think the BBI quest is inspired and driven principally by the acquisition and distribution of political power at the top among the elite, by the elite and for the elite.
Four, there are many unresolved boundary disputes arising from the creation of counties, which means redrawing constituencies will cause volatility, necessitating belts and braces.
Last, Thirdway or BBI, if it is not about the people and inclusivity, it is sabotage of the Constitution. Whichever way you look at it, expect controversy galore.