The Big Five's options after BBI

BBI report sends presidential hopefuls back to the drawing board

In Summary
  • Prime minister and politician ministers posts likely to offer regional balancing options.
  • Presidential candidates will have to assure various regions of their stake in government if they win.
BIG Five
BIG Five
Image: The Star

The Building Bridges Initiative report could open THE floodgates for 2022 pre-election deals after the task force recommended creating new powerful government posts.

Standing out is the position of the prime minister. Though non-executive, the holder will be an influential figure within the two arms of government, especially Parliament and the Executive.

The desire to fly ministerial flags is likely to see many high-flying politicians with presidential ambitions plunge into parliamentary elections in hopes they could become prime minister.

The report also urges the return of politicians to the Cabinet.

This means sitting MPs will have a chance to be Cabinet Ministers in what would see leading presidential candidates cobble together broad ethnic alliances.

The creation of the powerful office of the Leader of the Opposition with enhanced benefits, complete with shadow ministers, would offer a lifeline to the second runners-up.

The office of the Opposition Leader, which was repealed in 2010, could see the return to Parliament of bigwigs who have been out in the cold after losing presidential elections.

Then there is the position of minister of state, also a sitting MP, which the BBI team says is to ensure “effective political direction and parliamentary accountability”.

Apart from the new position, there is the position of deputy president as well as the speakers of the two houses of Parliament that presidential candidates would dangle before their suitors.

“The BBI report has thrown a spanner into the works on ethnic arithmetic. It has stirred up issues of political arithmetic for those hoping to run for president,” political and governance expert Javas Bigambo told the Star.

The Big Five — President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, Opposition chief Raila Odinga, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper — are seen as the political giants who will shape 2022 politics.

However, with dramatically diminished powers of the PM, it is unlikely that President Kenyatta, whom critics have condemned for plotting a 2022 comeback, would be interested in the seat.

National Assembly Minority leader and ODM chairman John Mbadi revealed that prospective presidential candidates will now be forced to draw up lineups that will share power in case of victory.

He said the creation of PM's post, which essentially expands the executive, would help also address the problem of exclusion and attain regional balance.

“With the expanded Executive, governments will be able to achieve inclusivity,” the lawmaker said.

Other political observers say the report will make it easy to cobble together pre-election coalitions to win a supermajority in Parliament without the fear of being played after the polls.

In its 2017 pre-election deal, Nasa agreed to create the position of chief minister with its two deputies, but critics dismissed the deal as unconstitutional.

Bigambo said presidential candidates would have to assure various regions and communities of their stake in government if they win.

“It would have to be known for instance from which region or community will a deputy president or prime minister come from,” he stated.

Ruto, who has been walking a tightrope over picking a running mate among competing political interests, now has his options open.

He might pick a deputy from Mt Kenya and then dangle a PM post for Western Kenya where he has been making inroads.

In Central, Ruto’s high-flying backers include Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu.

In Western where he has been fighting to make inroads, the DP’s influential backers include Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka.

But still, Ruto can seek to disorient the opposition by reaching out to either Kalonzo or Mudavadi.

The two have maintained, however, they will not play second fiddle and will go all the way to the ballot in 2022.

Raila — who after the handshake has received rare backing from key Central Kenya luminaries — might choose a Kikuyu running mate.

He might go to the Coast or Western for a premier.

The ODM boss's Central Kenya backers include Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru.

In Western, Rala he enjoys the backing of Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and at the Coast Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho.

All the three Ukambani governors, two of whom are serving their last terms, have also been gravitating towards Raila.

They are Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, Makueni’s Kivutha Kibawana and Charity Ngilu of Kitui.

Mutua and Kibwana are serving their last terms.

United States International University professor of History and Diplomacy, Macharia Munene said on Friday that creation of the PM position would trigger fierce competition among parties.

“Parties will be in cut-throat competition to form a government and win the majority in Parliament to get the position of the prime minister,” he said.

The don cautioned, however, that the BBI report had opened a can of worms and elicited sharp criticism from a section of politicians who had hoped for a powerful prime minister and two deputies.

“The report has sent politicians back to the drawing board to see how they can further their ambitions within the realm of the proposed dispensation,” he added.

On Wednesday, Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli said the Executive structure as proposed by the BBI report should be amended to create at least five extra seats.

He wants two deputy presidents, a prime minister and two deputies.

“On the Executive, we would need to do some amendments. The President should have two deputies and should have the powers to appoint a prime minister. The prime minister should equally have two deputies,” Atwoli said amid booing by a section of the crowd.

Governors serving their last terms are among the political heavyweights who had hoped to be beneficiaries of an expanded executive.

Some governors were also pushing for the creation of regional governments, an elevated structure above the county governments in which they would serve as regional presidents after completing their constitutional terms.

This was not proposed by the BBI team.

With the proposed dispensation, governors seeking to continue in the political arena will have to fight during parliamentary elections to position themselves for the PM's post or to be ministers.

They also have the option of angling for the few ministerial positions that would be reserved for non-MPs.

The office of the Leader of the Official Opposition that was scrapped in the 2010 Constitution would be a very strategic position from which to launch presidential bids.

Retired President Mwai Kibaki and President Uhuru Kenyatta, who are the previous holders of the position, successfully used the position to clinch the presidency.

Kibaki served as the Official Leader of the Opposition from 1998 to 2002 when he was elected president and passed the baton to Uhuru who succeeded him in 2002.

The Leader of the Official Opposition would also chair the Public Accounts Committee — one of the two powerful watchdog committees of Parliament that are supposed to keep the government in check.

Currently, Parliament has a Minority leader who coordinates and acts as the official voice of the opposition, while the Majority leader does the same for the government side.

The Minority leader is the opposition voice in Parliament and currently coordinates opposition troops in the House.