72 constituencies may be forced to elect women

July 13, 2011 10:11 pm

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11- The Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) has proposed a formula that will ensure 72 constituencies are set aside exclusively for women candidates in future general elections to ensure the constitutional one-third gender quota is attained in the National Assembly.

The proposal, which is contained in the draft Elections Bill, was first put forward by the Women’s Political Alliance.

Speaking during a constitutional forum in Nairobi, IIEC Chairman Issack Hassan said the formula seeks to ensure that at least 117 women make it to the 350-member National Assembly.

According to the formula, the 72 constituencies would be randomly selected through balloting, and the formula would be applied on a rotational basis.

“It may look very controversial and I know some Members of Parliament will have some objections to it (Elections Bill) but this is the only way to get out of the looming Constitutional crisis,” he said.

According to the new Constitution, the National Assembly shall comprise a Speaker, 290 members elected from constituencies (80 more than the current 210 seats). There shall also be 47 women representatives elected from each county and 12 members nominated by political parties.

Mr Hassan argued that the proposed formula would help meet the one-third gender representation balance by ensuring that the National Assembly did not have more than 233 members of the same gender at any given time.

The Women’s Political Alliance Executive Director Wambui Kanyi further proposed that political parties nominate an additional six women in line with article 97 (1c) of the Constitution.

This article sets aside 12 seats for political parties to nominate their members according to their proportion in the National Assembly. If the proposal by Ms Kanyi is implemented, the total number of women representatives in the National Assembly will be 125.

Ms Kanyi argued that this would be in line with the constitutional requirement as it would ensure that the National Assembly did not have more than two-thirds of the same gender. She however observed that as long as the membership of any gender did not exceed 233 then there was no breach of the Constitution.

Mr Hassan said the draft Elections Bill also required political parties to start their nominees’ lists with the name of a female candidate alternating it with that of a male. He argued that this would also ensure more women representatives made it to the National Assembly.

“We have also indicated that if a woman decides to run for an elective post and she’s also on the party’s nomination list but she wins the elective one, then the woman who appears third on the party’s list should take up her nomination,” he said.

He also noted that the Political Parties Bill proposed an incentive for political parties that successfully fielded female candidates.

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