In Summary
  • Parliament must be perceived by the people as the outlet of political pressures, a social valve that lowers social tensions and prevents violence by imposing dialogue.
  • Once the debate is polarised, Parliament stops legislating and overseeing in the interest of the common good, which is no longer ‘common’, since it has been kidnapped by narrow ethnic interests.
  • Over-politicising Parliament may seem natural or even normal and logical to any political master, but it destroys the possibility of any meaningful discussion based on constructive ideology.

We worry too much about government. We complain, curse and swear, yet a government is a reflection of its people.

Parliament is a reflection of who we are; a mirror of our beliefs and values. The Executive is a reflection of how we work, of our work ethic. The Judiciary is a reflection of how we behave and react when things go wrong, our commitment to the rule of law, or its failure.

Last week I wrote about populism and how dangerous an unrestricted Executive can be when it is unchecked by Parliament and unrestrained by the Judiciary.

This was a follow-up of the previous piece, on democracy and identity, which concluded with a painful truth, “The most dangerous tyrant is a democratic leader with no sensible and mature opposition.”

The Judiciary has no opposition role. When a government blames the Judiciary for its woes, it is going against the very same laws that brought it to power, simply looking for an easy electoral escape and shifting blame to those who are not elected.

A good judiciary must balance courage and caution, while ensuring a faithful service to truth and justice. It must interpret the laws passed by Parliament within a social context, while avoiding opinion polls, public relations or political convenience. Opposition is the duty of Parliament.

Parliament has three key functions: First is the political function, where it balances powers and interests, ideologies and ethnicity.

Parliament must be perceived by the people as the outlet of political pressures, a social valve that lowers social tensions and prevents violence by imposing dialogue, replacing weapons with the negotiating table, and fists with the pen.  Under the political function, Parliament seeks political solutions to political problems.

Second is the legislative function. This, though perhaps the best known function of Parliament, is not its most important one. In our modern democracies, law-making has become rather positivist and pragmatic. Laws are seldom contextualised and are often carbon-copied from different countries.

This means that the legislative function is not usually driven by a genuine desire for justice and cultural identity but convenience. It is the result of a pragmatic, short-term political agenda.

Third is the oversight function, which should lead Parliament to keep the Executive in check in accordance with the Constitution of Kenya. One of the driving tenets of the 2010 Constitution was giving Parliament wider powers over the Executive.

NO MEANINGFUL DISCUSSION

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