No more tears for election losers


President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga display copies of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report at Kisii State Lodge. [File, Standard]

The big winners in the proposed constitutional changes are presidential election losers who will have the opportunity to be accommodated in new positions.

Unlike in the past where a runner-up in a presidential election would be confined to the streets until the next polls, the proposed law gives the person a soft landing in the seat of Leader of Official Opposition. It comes with a budget, offices, staff and the opportunity to form a shadow Cabinet.

The person must, however, have the support of at least 25 per cent of elected MPs.

This cures situations like the one the country found itself in, in 2013 and 2017 when former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other presidential candidates had to oppose the government from outside. They relied on their foot soldiers in Parliament to execute the political wars on their behalf.

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Raila as opposition leader was forced onto the streets to protest government excess, notably electoral grievances and the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal.

In the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposals, the Leader of Official Opposition sitting in Parliament will face the Prime Minister and directly ask questions on government policy and actions.

The report states: “There shall be a Leader of Official Opposition in the National Assembly. The Leader of Official Opposition shall be the person—who received the second greatest number of votes in a presidential election; and whose political party or coalition of parties has at least twenty-five per cent of all the members of the National Assembly.”

Yesterday, BBI vice-chair Adams Oloo said, “By virtue of a presidential loser coming second, they will automatically become the leader of opposition in Parliament. They will serve in Parliament as an ex-officio member.”

The report is also a win for women as it seeks to cure the two-thirds gender conundrum by proposing more slots in Parliament for them. The Senate will comprise 94 members, with each county voting for a man and a woman, while the National Assembly will have an additional 70 seats.

The report also makes it mandatory for candidates for governor to nominate persons of the opposite gender as their running mates.

Also gaining are MCAs who have been handed a kitty like the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which will place in their control millions if shillings in development funds.

“The Ward Development Fund shall comprise at least five per cent of all the county government’s revenue in each financial year and ensures equitable distribution and development in the wards of money allocated or collected by the county government,” the report reads.

The MCAs will also be eligible for election as MPs under a proposal to amend Article 99, which disqualified the ward reps from running as MPs.

Other winners are the youth, who will have a Youth Commission to, among others, promote the implementation of the rights of the youth.

The biggest losers, however, are political godfathers who have lost the opportunity to nominate their girlfriends to Parliament.

The report eliminates the position of nominated MPs, effectively doing away with seats that have progressively become the preserve of friends and relatives of influential politicians at the expense of more deserving cases.

Also losing out are holders of position of deputy chief justice who will be forced to leave the office at the end of the tenure of their bosses. The proposal, which aligns the tenures of the two offices, nips in the bud ambitions of deputies keen to succeed their bosses as presidents of the Supreme Court.

Another big loser is the running mate of the presidential runner-up, as the proposed law does not provide for the position of a deputy leader of the official opposition.

Also left hanging are the other losers in the presidential race, unless the president appoints them to the Cabinet.

In the 2013 elections, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila’s running mate, was left in the cold, alongside his boss.

The new proposals were handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila at Kisii State Lodge on Wednesday.

Attracted debate

Already, they have attracted debate as politicians and ordinary citizens pore over the pages to make sense of what was fashioned as the panacea to the country’s most pressing ills, such as corruption, ethnicity, divisive elections and historical injustices.

At a press conference in Parliament yesterday, a section of leaders allied to the Jubilee’s Kieleweke wing told Kenyans to read the document and make up their minds on its contents.

Led by National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, the 20 MPs warned Kenyans against politicians eager to confuse them.

“As political leaders, we are reading this report to see whether our interests are captured as regards representation, legislative capacity, and oversight. We would want to urge all Kenyans to read this report the same way; with an eye as to whether it captures what you need to improve, uplift and continue with your lives, without disruptions,” their statement read.

We urge Kenyans to look at the report from a ‘selfish’ perspective. As you read through and dissect it, wherever you are at home, at the workplace or in social places, ask yourself – What is in it for me?”

Nominated MP Isaac Mwaura said persons with disabilities have lost big time in the BBI document. He, however, said, “it is a big win for women“.

“It has taken away guaranteed representation in both Houses of Parliament and the county assembly. The Senate is essentially the lower House confined to only county matters and senators will be requesting members of the National Assembly who will be ministers to respond to their questions,” said Mwaura.

“It’s a political and economic consensus. A big win for women but a loss to ethnic and other minorities. Population representation and devolution have won, and so are the MCAs, who now have a ward fund. But CDF needs to be clear whether it’s there or not. It’s a mix of hits and misses,” wrote the senator on Facebook.





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