A few weeks ago I attended a workshop on the proposed new constitution that was sponsored by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The forum was free and open to the publc. The workshop focused on 6 thematic areas of the new constitution – Representation, Women’s Issues, Devolution, Land and Natural Resources, Media, Executive Powers and Youth. The aim of the workshop was to look at the Wako draft in light of what the different stakeholder (I hate this word but you can’t avoid it) groups involved in Bomas wanted and in light of the current constitution. What follows are some notes I took at the workshop.
- I’m really glad I attended the event. Actually had a warm fuzzy feeling about it…it’s one thing to debate the referendum in cyberspace/online forums and another to engage in these issues in person. OK maybe I just love politics. Wish it could have been webcast or something…we’ll get there eventually. The event was well-organized, the debate and the information conveyed was substantive, the issues live (and even sobering when they are discussed in a non-banana/orange manner), the Kenyan audience both impressive and hilarious in the way that only Kenyans can be (we are really verbose people…for real) complete with the occasional odd-ball character who is annoying but you can’t really dismiss them because they make some sense even in their odd-ballness. I even got to sing the national anthem in public for the first time in ages!
- Attendance was really good. The room was already pretty much packed by 9:15 and was eventually standing room only.
- Had conversation with former mayor of Kisumu, Shakeel, he was sitting in front of me. He was supposedly behind the burning of copies of the constitution in Kisumu yesterday. He denied being behind it, but in the same breathe defended it as an act of protest because the constitution people are being presented with is a “prostituted version.” When I asked him what were his issues with the constitution he said it was like being told to drink a glass of water that was 80% OK and 20% poisonous – would you do it? He claims that the orange side’s beef is not even the PM issue but devolution, which is would have the most impact on the people at the local/village level. For instance, he said, if you look at KRA stats on revenue breakdown from 2002/2003 by region, definitely doesn’t match up with allocation of resources. Asked him what happens if the NO side wins. His response, we stick with the old constitution until 2007, NARC is voted out, and the merry-go-round starts.
- The first speaker dealt with representation. I arrived a bit late and was busy trying to get my hands on some handouts so I didn’t really take good notes during this session. The following is a summary of what the two drafts and the current constitution have to say on representation (cribbed from FES handout)
1. Current Constitution:
- Kenyans are represented by elected representatives on the basis of a first past the post system. There are 210 elected MPs and 12 nominated by political parties on the strength of seats won by each party.
- A simple majority and critical support in the provinces is required to win a presidential election (at least 25% of the votes cast in at least 5 provinces).
- Parliament is unicameral.
- All candidates for elctions must be nominated by a political party.
- Right to vote not constitutionally recognized and protected.
- Transparent ballot boxes not mandatory.
- The number of MPs is set at 222.
- Elections supervised by an “independent” Electoral Commission about by the President.
- The Attorney-General and Speaker are ex-officio MPs.
2. Bomas Draft
- Kenyans would have been represented by elected representatives based on a first past the post electoral system with special seats reserved for women and other groups.
- A decisive majority is required to be elected president. Over 50% of the votes cast and at least 25% of the votes cast in more than 1/2 the regions.
- Parliament would have been bicameral.
- Independent candidates would have been allowed.
- Right to vote would have been recognized and protected.
- Transparent ballot boxes would have been mandatory.
- The number of MPs would have varied from election to election.
- Election supervised by independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (3-9 persons)
- No ex-officio members although there is a speaker in addition to the other members.
3. Wako/Kilifi Draft
- Kenyans will be represented by elected representatives on basis of various electoral systems. The president will be elected by a first past the post system, while MPs will be elected on the basis of a mixed member proportional system (who’s workings no one seems to be quite certain of as far as I can tell).
- To be elected president, the candidate will have to get over 50% of the votes cast and at least 25% of the votes cast in more than 1/2 of the districts.
- Under the mixed member proportional system, special constitutencies will be reserved for women and minorities (see section 116). There will also be affirmative action quotas for women and minorities.
- In addition to the Speaker and the A-G, unelected ministers (Cabinet will be comprised of both elected MPs and unelected folks) will also be ex officio MPs.
- Parliament will be unicameral.
- Independent candidates will be allowed (see section 117).
- Right to vote will be recognized and protected (see section 54).
- Transparent ballot boxes will be mandatory.
- The number of MPs will vary from eleection to election.
- Elections will be supervised by independent Election and Boundaries Commission (see section 109 for details).
The recurring theme during the workshop was the 80/20 theme. 80% of Wako draft is OK, but 20% of it is completely against Bomas/the wishes of Wanjiku. For instance, under representation – Wako version has retained a lot of what was in Bomas e.g. you have independent candidates now (key for groups like women and the youth who have a hard time obtaining party nominations) and the right to vote will be constitutionally protected. But it’s done away with a bicameral parliament and has introducted a mixed member proportional representation that portents nothing but confusion.
Something that is problematic to me about both Bomas and Wako/Kilifi is the unlimited number of MPs – this is just a recipe for disaster. We could be operating with 500 goons instead of 222. The horror!!
Part II to follow….