In Summary
  • It is not merely an oversight, in that it reduces the influence of Parliament but does nothing to disperse or share power.
  • If you wished to design a system to enshrine a ‘constitutional dictatorship’ in law, the bill would be the perfect instrument.

On the surface, the Punguza Mizigo Bill is an idyllic initiative.

A grassroots movement, ostensibly coming from outside the major political camps that aims to reduce the burden on the taxpayer through constitutional reform. Sounds great, right?

The devil though, as ever, is in the detail. For all its inclusive language, the bill is a collection of populist proposals designed to hoodwink and win over ‘Wanjiku’, all the while serving a more sinister agenda.

Take, for example, the proposal to cut the number of constituencies. This, of course, sounds good.

After all, less constituencies means less MPs, which means fewer people to be paid from the public purse. Which means more money for us, right?

The issue, though, is that MPs serve a purpose. They represent us. That is what representative democracy is all about.

REPRESENTATION

But with the bill, with one fell swoop the area an MP represents will increase dramatically, as will the number of constituents the average member has to represent. That means the citizen now has one third as much influence.

To illustrate my point, let’s compare Kenya to other countries. The United Kingdom, for example, has 650 MPs for a population of around 66 million. That’s roughly one MP for every 100,000 people.

In Africa, we could look at Botswana, often cited as one of the strongest democracies on the continent, which has 63 MPs for its 2.3 million people. In other words, one MP for every 36,000 citizens.

In Kenya, our 416 lawmakers represent around 50 million people, a ratio of one for every 120,000. Under this new proposal, that ratio would triple to one for every 340,000 citizens. Good luck getting heard.

What’s more, a smaller Parliament means a weaker Parliament — which means less scrutiny for the Executive branch. Good for those in power; less so for the rest of us.

MARGINALISED GROUPS

Things look especially dicey if you happen to be a woman or someone living with a disability.

Currently, there are seats set aside for women, youth and persons with disabilities. Punguza Mizigo purposes to abolish all these. Progressive and representative it, most certainly, is not.

On the subject of representation, what about the principle of giving different ethnic groups a fair stake in government?

The deputy governor position ensures that in ethnically diverse counties, there is space for more than one community to be represented in the Executive.

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