• On paper the reduction of the two presidential terms sound very plausible, but then what are we addressing here?
The uproar that has greeted news of the Punguza Mizigo Bill destined for the County Assemblies is as refreshing as you would expect. But even as leaders from different sides of the political divide and formations react to the Dr Ekuru Aukot led bill, it is important to be alive to how critical a time this is, in our constitutional dispensation.
To situate it appropriately, our county assemblies are poised to engage in a monumental national exercise that wrapped within the provisions of the constitution. In fact, the onus is on the hitherto berated MCAs to rise to the occasion and be counted. Already a few politicians have chipped in with their two cents that MCAs will be compromised to shoot the bill down on arrival; while others are of the opinion that the bill is a populist exercise aimed are enticing the “low hanging” MCAs.
Granted, the discussions are healthy and now that the bill is in the public domain it will be subjected to scrutiny and Kenyans have the right to hold and even air divergent and fiercely polemic views as we discourse on the merits and demerits of the bill. A read through the bill evokes some creditable drafting and conceptualization of frameworks that will not change the sociopolitical and economic landscape.
I will save the pedestrian discussion of lowering the wage bill and reducing representation for another day given that it sounds simplistic and geared to pass through the huddle of MCAs with little recourse as to why we need to reduce MPs and Senators drastically. There should be more to saving on expenditure and accountants will tell you the keyand value for money.
Nevertheless, the principles that have informed gender inequality, elevation of senate to be an upper house, the use on national identity cards as voters card, the abolition of the position of the deputy governors and the tenets on fighting corruption with legal caps on days within which cases must be tried all resonate with the aspirations of many Kenyans.
But the clincher of them all must be the operationalisation of chapter six of our constitution. The Punguza Mizigo bill as drafted splendidly brings to life chapter six and combined with the bill’s proposals on fighting corruption, if adopted Kenya will be well poised to have leaders of integrity. In fact, based on just the proposals on the fight against corruption and the provisions on chapter six, the bill already has sworn enemies from among the galaxy of leaders with doggy track records.
On paper the reduction of the two presidential terms sound very plausible, but then what are we addressing here. As drafted, it seems like the provision seeks to achieve two fundamental goals. First, to save the country the double “tragedy” of a president who wins an election and begins the compromise journey to win a second term. This is “tragic” in the sense that the President then operates with his legs on the brake pads, going slow on any action that might jeopardize his chances of securing a second term.
The effect of such a scenario on the greater good of the public cannot be gainsaid as the first termof the Jubilee administration turns out to have been punctuated by tight brakes on corruption only for things to turn in post handshake and all of a sudden you have Jubilee luminaries accusing each other of high corruption.
Secondly, with a two term president, the second term is likely to be frustrated by the ambitions of individuals hellbent on succession and in Kenya we are blessed with an abundance of ambitious politicians, be they in Kieleweke or Tangatanga and to say that President Uhuru Kenyatta is having it difficult would be a serious understatement.
However, the seven-year one term president does not seem to address the winner takes it all and the volatility occasioned by a strong, losing candidate who is thrown in the political limbo. Therefore, even as we debate the bill there is need to look at how to make it better rather than vilify the architects. And from where I sit one key element that the Third Way Alliance did not address is the issue of oversight and a constitutionally empowered powerful opposition leader in parliament.
The Deputy President while addressing delegates at Chatham House, proposed the position of a powerful opposition leader, funded by the taxpayers to oversight the government and represent the aspirations of the block of the electorate who would otherwise feel disenfranchised for identifying and voting for a losing candidate. Such an opposition chief should have a constitutional threshold and a losing candidate or coalition of candidates must either garner or coalesce to have a sizeable percentage of the vote so much so that we don’t end up with candidates with negligible percentage of the vote funded by the taxpayers to little effect.
But even as Kenyans ventilate their views on this bill, which has for all intent and purposes pulled a fast one on the Building Bridges Initiative, the Third Way Alliance teamand IEBC must address themselves toa few issues that are fairly pertinent. Top on the list is the veracity of the signature verification process which ELOG has also pointed out. The pertinent question is,against what records were the signatures verified and found to be good to go given that IEBC does not have a repository of specimen signatures?Anyone outside there could be among the 1.2 million people who appended their signatures, yet they don’t know.