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Muturi: Why I want to abolish universal suffrage

By Hillary Mageka
Tuesday, March 10th, 2020
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi . Photo/PD/FILE
In summary

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi on Tuesday recommended radical amendments to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in what would see Kenya’s electoral system recalibrated to a party-based system similar to South Africa’s party-list proportional representation system.

Muturi, who appeared before the 14-member BBI steering committee on his personal capacity wants to abolish election of the president, his deputy, governors and their deputies.

In its place, he is proposing that the popular will of the people manifested through one man one vote actuated through the nomination of the President by the political party that garners majority votes at the general election.

“Voters at a general election should vote for a party that best captures their aspirations.

This would help entrench a new dispensation of politics of ideas rather than politics of ethnic mobilization,” Muturi told the committee chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji.

“As with every contest, there must be constitutional acknowledgement that a presidential election should breed a winner and a loser,” he added.

Muturi, who is the first Speaker of the National Assembly under the Constitution of Kenya 2010 held any denial of a winner-loser arrangement is a shortchange to the people who took time to choose between competitors.

Accordingly, Muturi who is serving his seventh year as Speaker, noted political party that garners second highest number of votes in a general election should automatically become the official opposition party with its leader assuming the role of leader of official opposition in the National Assembly.

“The Constitution should provide for such facilities and services for the leader of official opposition necessary for the effective performance of that role,” he said.

In this way, the former Siakago MP held the perception that presidential elections are a zero sum game will be addressed.

However, he noted, nothing should prevent the winning political party from entering into a post-election coalition with the runners up party for purposes of smooth governance.

The speaker lamented that political competition in Kenya has been more about individuals wearing political party t-shirts than it has been about political parties.

As a result, there are almost new political parties or political coalitions every election.
Muturi is also pushing for the removal of constituency boundaries, with Kenyans only voting for parties and each MP representing between 150,000 and 200,000 people.

For instance, he noted there is the ugly glare of the member for Ruiru constituency represents close to 500,000 residents having the same voting power with the Lamu East lawmaker with just about 100,000 residents.

“I propose that by whatever formula, the membership of the National Assembly should be such that each member represents not more than 200,000 residents, while reflecting ethnic population proportions, cities and urban areas, geographical features, historical and economic factors, marginalised groups and minorities,”

“A review is essential to give effect to the doctrine of one man one vote as encapsulated in the BBI report,” he added.

On election of county governor and deputy county governor, he proposed a similar model that will bring to an end to popular gubernatorial polls and instead a party-list model where the most popular party picks a governor and their deputy.

As a primary measure to promote accountable governance, Muturi who is angling Embu gubernatorial seat advised that county governors should not be elected through universal suffrage.

“Each political party at a general election should submit to the IEBC a list of three candidates for each county, each of whom is qualified to hold office as county governor, and at least one of whom shall be of either gender,” he explained.

He added: “The list from political parties shall be in the order of priority, provided the names shall alternate between the genders,”

Upon pronouncement of results of a general election, Muturi held, the chairperson of to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) shall forward for each county the name of one person nominated by the political party with the majority of votes at the county level, to the Speaker of Senate for approval consideration by the Senate.

Upon approval by a majority of all the members of the Senate, he said, the Speaker of the Senate shall cause to be published in the Kenya Gazette the decision of the Senate.

“Where the Senate rejects a nominee, the Speaker of the Senate shall notify the chairperson of the IEBC, who shall within three days submit the name of the nominee next on the priority list of the nominating political party,” he said.

“The county governor shall within fourteen days of assuming office nominate a person of the opposite gender to be the deputy county governor, and shall with the approval of two thirds of all the members of the County Assembly, appoint the person as deputy governor,” he added.

The county governor may, however, with the approval of two thirds of all the members of the County Assembly, dismiss the Deputy County governor.

On the administration of justice, he said, whereas the focus of the 2010 constitution majorly went to the protection of the judiciary from external interference, critical tenets in the administration of justice were overlooked.

He suggested that the judicial authority to supervise anything done under the authority of the constitution or any law, including the power of review of decisions of other arms of government, should be so layered as to submit to the doctrine of separation of powers.

“The duty to abide by the doctrine of separation of powers is not reserved for Parliament and the Executive alone, but binds the judiciary as well,” he held.

On Independence of the Judiciary, Muturi wants the functioning of the judiciary delinked from the administrative control of the judicial service commission.

According to him, the chief justice who should bear responsibility for the functioning of judiciary while the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) should provide to the judicial officers such facilities and services as are necessary for the effective and efficient discharge of their mandate

While performing judicial duties, he advised, judicial officers should feel shepherded from administrative bulldozing of the commission.

“Cartels in the legal provision have often fought for membership in the judicial service commission so as to occupy a vintage position to manipulate judges with administrative threats and promises,” he revealed.

He added: “Judiciary should be accountable to the people of Kenya for the way it exercises judicial authority.”

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