Thursday, November 19, 2009



By Standard Team

The Harmonised Draft Constitution seeks to fix governance challenges through radical proposals on power relations, by taming the Presidency while empowering Parliament. Its approach is guided by manipulation of Executive authority to, for example, dish out public land and top public appointments to cronies, business partners, and ‘old boy’ school connections. The draft demonstrates its authors were alive to dramatic, but infamous events or power deals. They include President Kibaki’s ‘raid’ on opposition parties, without consulting their leaders, to pick ministers and constitute what he called Government of National Unity, after defeat in the November 2005 referendum on the draft constitution.

It also, for example, will make it impossible for a president to use the power to announce election date as a ‘secret weapon’, or even instil fear on Parliament through subtle threat to prorogue the House.

The last President to wield the awesome powers such as unilaterally appointing commissioners to the electoral body in which he is a candidate, and therefore possibly to his advantage, could be President Kibaki.

A study of the clauses in the draft released on Tuesday, reveal an attempt by the team of experts to, for example, prevent repeat of the events that followed the 2007 General Election, through entrenching the polling date and swearing in of the president in the Constitution.

It also slams the door on such post-election power deals as enjoyed by President Kibaki and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka last year, as violence raged. It demands presidential candidates name their running mates before elections, and if they win, they are automatically deputy President, who can take over if the President died halfway during his term.

He or she also will be the running mate in case of a re-run and can, if they win, run the office of State President should the incumbent be indisposed or goes abroad. It therefore means the deputy President just won’t be a figurehead — the party must be satisfied he or she holds the same clout as the presidential candidate, and should in the worst case scenario, deliver State House.

Seal loopholes

CoE also drew its lessons on the bungled 2007 presidential election and seeks to seal most of the loopholes. The culture of ‘defection’, possibly with monetary inducement is also under attack in the draft. It dissuades last-minute political pacts and controls post-election activities.

In coming up with the document, CoE director Ekuro Aukot said members were "largely guided and influenced by the events of 2007-2008".

Speaking during the unveiling of the draft, Aukot reminded Kenyans of South African retired Judge Johann Kriegler’s chilling warning: "2007 violence would be like a Christmas party if Kenyans do not embrace recommended changes."

The gory events of 2007 accordingly form the thrust of the draft. The draft is anchored on the strong national spirit to avoid repeat of the flawed presidential election.

Apart from Parliament and the Cabinet approving such decisions, the number of districts is fixed in the Constitution as devolved units.

The Prime Minister has an even bigger headache. It is unlikely the era of political sycophancy will thrive under the new arrangement, considering that the Executive will find it hard to reward cronies with limited slots of 20 Cabinet seats — half of which could go to non-politicians.