Strengthen the Opposition, says taskforce report
Creation of a strong Opposition where the runner-up of the presidential election becomes an ex-officio in Parliament is one of the key proposals of the Building the Bridges Initiative technical team has recommended as a way of addressing lack of inclusivity and ending presidential election-related chaos.
According to the BBI team’s proposals, the runner-up automatically becomes the leader of the official opposition, but on condition that his or her party is not represented in the government.
The move is tailored towards ensuring that there are proper structures of putting the Executive in check.
“They (those who presented their views to the team) also told the task force that they want a strong opposition and a parliament that will hold the Executive accountable through applied checks and balances,” a summary report of the recommendations reads in part.
The taskforce that was created to spearhead the BBI initiative, birthed out of the March 9, 2018 Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, yesterday handed over the report that fell short of fronting a parliamentary system.
More than 7,000 citizens from all ethnic groups, genders, cultural and religious practices, and different social and economic sectors were consulted in the report making, including more than 400 elected leaders during hearings which were conducted in the 47 counties.
Presently, the runner-up of the presidential election, despite garnering a significant number of votes is plunged into political oblivion for five years because the new dispensation does not allow them to vie for parliamentary and presidential seat at the same time like before.
Since 2013, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, despite losing with a minimal margin, has remained in the political cold after losing the elections twice to President Uhuru.
In Parliament, his party has been forced to contend with the Minority leader’s post, which currently is held by Gwasi Member of Parliament and Orange Democratic Movement chairman John Mbadi and Siaya Senator James Orengo at the Senate.
But if the recommendations sail through as they are, the runner-up shall be leading a strong opposition that will have a shadow cabinet to help put the government on check like it happens in the British parliamentary practice.
In the British practice, the Shadow Cabinet consists of senior members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition who scrutinise their corresponding government ministers, develop alternative policies, and hold the government to account for its actions.
When he presented his recommendations before the team in Kiambu Town in June this year, controversial Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria recommended creation of a loyal opposition which should be maintained through taxpayers’ money to ensure effective oversight.
The opposition, which he said, must not be abrasive, should be led by the presidential runner-up, who he said should automatically be nominated to parliament as opposed to the current set-up where they are thrown to the political cold until the next election.
“Today, we do not have an opposition and for a fact today, the opposition MPs are the ones supporting the government. We need to have a loyal opposition, who comprises presidential losers who should have a shadow cabinet to check on the government,” Kuria had said.
The taskforce, co-chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji and his Busia counterpart Amos Wako, in a move to give the opposition more say in governance, wants it to be in charge of the question session in parliament.
“The opposition will play a key role in Prime Ministerial and Ministerial Question Time sessions in Parliament (sic),” says the report in part.
And in a move aimed at distributing top seats, the team has recommended creation of a position of Prime Minister, an additional position whose holder will be picked in a process akin to a parliamentary system.
According to the proposals, the Prime Minister will be appointed by the President and must be approved by Parliament. The PM will not, however, have deputies or wield immense powers contrary to earlier speculations.
“Within a set number of days following the summoning of Parliament after an election, the President shall appoint as Prime Minister,” says part of the report which proposes that vetting and approval be done by Parliament.
The premier’s position, the team has suggested, should be occupied by a Member of Parliament from the party with the majority Members in the House, in what leaves the fate of the position of Majority Leader hanging in the balance.
This is because, the premier, according to the proposals, should automatically become the leader of government business in the House, a position that is currently reserved for the Majority Leader.
If the proposals are adopted, the nominee for the post will not assume office until his or her appointment is first confirmed by a resolution of the National Assembly and supported by an absolute majority vote of MPs.