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Bid to bring powerful prime minister, weak president

Exactly seven-and-a-half years after the Constitution was promulgated, a former journalist-turned-politician yesterday became the first to test the will of Members of Parliament to alter the supreme law of the land.

The unresolved issue on the political arena, and which was the bone of contention during the pre-2010 Bomas of Kenya talks, is whether the country should adopt a parliamentary or presidential system of governance, or a fusion of both.

When it was promulgated on August 27, 2010, the feeling then was that some aspects of the Constitution would be changed later, and President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga promised to do just that.

DRAFT BILL

Seven years later, Mr Kassait Kamket, the little-known Kanu MP from Baringo County’s Tiaty constituency, has drafted a Bill that seeks to change the power structure from presidential to parliamentary.

“This is a looking-forward legislative proposal,” he defended it yesterday.

“Being a first-term MP, I come with clean hands, and I pray that Kenyans read the Bill and debate the proposals without rancour, emotions and any preconceived malice on my part.”

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

Wednesday, the Budget and Appropriations Committee of the National Assembly will scrutinise the financial implication of Mr Kamket’s Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which is the most elaborate and radical attempt to amend the 2010 Constitution yet.

The Public Finance Management Act gives the committee the power to scrutinise all Bills with financial implications for their sustainability.

In the event the committee approves it, the Bill could be introduced in the House as early as Thursday this week, said Mr Kamket.

There has been a quiet but lingering debate on which system of government Kenya should adopt, and that discussion has gained momentum in recent months after the recent political divisions created by the long presidential campaigns between Raila Odinga’s National Super Alliance and Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party, which eventually saw Mr Odinga boycott a repeat election.

Mr Kamket is therefore reviving debate on a controversial subject that marked the clamour for a new constitution in 2010.

BOMAS TALKS

During the lengthy Bomas talks, it had initially been agreed that Kenya should adopt a bicameral Legislature and a dual-Executive system, with a Prime Minister as head of government and President as head of state.

Shortly after this was concluded, the then Attorney-General Amos Wako made alterations to it by re-introducing a presidential system and removing the clause on Senate. The draft was rejected during the November 2005 referendum by 58 per cent of the voters.

After the Wako draft was defeated, the Committee of Experts led by Dr Nzamba Kitonga proposed a hybrid system, but this, too, faced problems with politicians, who wanted to overhaul the imperial presidency.

While Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) had all along favoured a parliamentary system, they surprised everyone during the final Naivasha retreat of Parliamentary Select Committee in January 2010 when they abandoned it in favour of a pure presidential system, which mimicked the US political system.

PURE PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM

The pure presidential system was initially supported by Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU), and during the Naivasha talks, where PNU was led by Uhuru Kenyatta, they had agreed to have the position of a Prime Minister, albeit with limited powers.

But the ODM parliamentary wing team, under James Orengo, abandoned their push for a parliamentary system, a move that caught PNU by surprise.

With the recent shifts in politics, debate is simmering on whether Kenya should look again at the system of governance, and Mr Kamket’s Bill appears to be a long-shot contribution.

In the proposed system, the Office of the President will be given ceremonial duties and will lead to the creation of the positon of an executive Prime Minister who will be the head of government and leader of government business in the National Assembly.

The proposal to demote the office of the President to ceremonial duties is likely to trigger furious national debate, and eyes will be on President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party, which enjoys a majority stake in Parliament to pass it.

EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY

The PM will exercise the executive authority of the state with the assistance of two deputies. The PM will be appointed by the President within seven days of the first sitting of the National Assembly after an election.

The other proposed duties of the PM will be to chair Cabinet meetings, direct and coordinate the functions of ministries and government departments, and assign responsibility for the implementation and administration of any Act of Parliament to deputy PMs.

Mr Kamket is proposing that the PM be an elected member of the National Assembly with the additional role of leader of government business, and also seeks the scrapping of the Office of Deputy President.

AGE FOR PRESIDENT

For one to be elected President, one will have to be aged 50 and above.

The president will serve a single term of seven years and will be elected by a joint sitting of Parliament.

The Bill also seeks to change the date of the general election from the second Tuesday of August to the second Tuesday of December of the fifth year.

Another radical proposal is to restructure the senate from its current format. Every county, Mr Kamket proposes, will have two senators, a man and woman, but they will be elected by the County Assembly.

Six other nominated senators will be nominated to represent the youth and persons living with disabilities.

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