As members of county assemblies were sworn in this week, they came face to face with a new, tougher world, different from the one they found in 2013, Nation Newsplex has found.

A pay cut, low barriers to entry, a critical electorate willing to wield the ballot, and the difficulty in impeaching governors mean that the job of a county representative is now more challenging than it was in 2013.

Things are not any easier for governors, just over half (55 per cent) of whom have to govern  with their own parties facing minorities.

During their first term, county assembly members asserted themselves, winning higher pay from the Salaries and Remunerations Commission (SRC) in 2013. They even fought physically amongst themselves.

When the election candidates were gazetted, it was clear that MCAs would be in a difficult fight, with each seat attracting numerous contestants. For example, in Kisii County, Borabu Chitago Ward attracted 33 candidates.

On August 8, 346 out of the 1,450 elected MCAs retained their seats, according to totals from gazette notices.  While 655 incumbents were defeated at the polls, another 447 opted not to run again, paving the way for new entrants.

This means only 24 per cent of MCAs returned to the legislature, a lower re-election rate than governors, MPs and Senators at 47 per cent, 40 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively. However, MCAs got off lightly compared to Women County Representatives, of whom only 19 per cent were re-elected.

The average re-election rate per county was 26 per cent, and only four counties, Taita–Taveta, Kwale, Turkana and Samburu re-elected more than half their county representatives.

County representatives will also have to contend with the difficulty of impeaching governors. In total, five governors were impeached, though none actually was removed from office. In Nyeri County, 34 MCAs memorably spent the night in the county assembly building to do it.

Among these counties, re-election rates varied: Embu (35 per cent), Kericho (23 per cent), Muranga (11 per cent), Nyeri (7 per cent) and Makueni (3 per cent).

According to Professor Macharia Munene, who teaches history and international relations at USIU, there is cause of optimism. “The calibre of MCAs has improved compared to last time. So there’ll be a lot of meeting of the mind in each of the counties. It boils down to the brilliance of the governor and the speaker to work with everyone in the assembly”, he says. “So there’s expected to be more honest differences, and less cases of political mischief.”

MCAs also come into office earning less than they did the previous term.  In 2013, MCAs agreed a pay increase with the SRC, from Sh79,200 to Sh123,750 per month, rising to Sh165,000 by the end of the term.

Earlier this year, the SRC reduced salaries from Sh165,000 to Sh144,375 per month. That means in total, MCAs would be paid Sh2.871 billion, down from 2.512 billion saving the taxpayer Sh359 million every year.

DELICATE BALANCING ACT

Across the country, each governor will have to work with members of the county assembly to pass legislation. Some governors can look forward to assemblies where 90 per cent of members come from their own parties. They include Cyprian Awiti of Homa Bay, Jackson Mandago of Uasin Gishu, Joyce Laboso of Bomet, Hasssan Ali Joho of Mombasa, Alex Tolgos of Elgeyo Marakwet and Patrick Gakuru of Nyeri  

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