ODM has the upper hand in Coalition govt

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BY KAMAU MBUGWA

When President Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in after the botched elections of 2007, those supporting him had expected ODM to soften their stand and accept to play second fiddle, but the killings that followed stunned everybody and ultimately forced PNU to accept a negotiated settlement to the standoff. To date there are still some people in the President’s corner who continue to delude themselves that they have the upper hand in the coalition.

The purpose of this article is to disabuse Kenyans of the notion that ODM is the underdog in the current governance matrix.

The ODM machine, under the leadership of Raila Odinga, applies methods in its continued quest to achieve its goals that are sometimes subtle and diplomatic, but which mostly have left a trail of blood and destruction.

Evidence abounds though, that ODM continues to champion change in the way Kenya is governed not witnessed since the reintroduction of multi party democracy in 1991. Without doubt, some of these changes are negative and will weaken rather than strengthen our institutions and will need to be strongly resisted.

The declaration by ODM that they would not file an election petition in the High Court to challenge the outcome of the 2007 presidential election ostensibly because it did not believe in the impartiality of our Judiciary, and the subsequent acquiescence by PNU to international mediation brought about for the first time in independent Kenya the internationalisation of internal disputes.

This fact has on the one hand brought about ridicule to our Judiciary, a situation which will hopefully be remedied after a new constitution is enacted. On the other hand, Kenya is now under the microscope of the international community and any bad behaviour by the political leadership can be detected quickly and nipped in the bud.

The leadership style of President Kibaki has diminished the respect and stature of the Presidency as an institution. Though the Constitution clearly provides which powers are to be exercised by the President, the Constitutional amendments under the National Accord have emboldened ODM to either snatch some of these powers from the President in favour of the Prime Minister or to scare the President from exercising them.

The saga of the Leader of government Business is a good example but other issues such as the crisis on the appointment of ambassadors and other senior government officers are informative.

Parliament has in the meantime been asserting itself in a way that will fundamentally alter Kenyan politics. Indeed this has all along been the game plan for ODM which believes in the Parliamentary system as opposed to the Presidential system.

President Kibaki reportedly only agreed to a hybrid system with an executive President and a ‘prefect’ Prime Minister after President Kikwete had explained how the system works in Tanzania. Recent events though indicate that ODM, under Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is not content with playing the role of a toothless bulldog, Constitutional limitation notwithstanding and has publicly declared that the National accord is superior to the Constitution itself.

The recent ruling by the Speaker of the National Assembly in which he rejected Kalonzo Musyoka’s nomination by the President as the Leader of government Business and appointed himself instead is an indication that Parliament is eager to bare its teeth at the Presidency.

Other powers which Parliament has recently allocated itself such as the appointment of constitutional officers to serve in institutions such as the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the appointment of a Committee to determine whether MPs should pay tax or not indicate that Parliament – under the tutelage of ODM – is an awakening giant.

This week, the Prime Minister utilised his forty five minutes slot in Parliament to answer questions and to make statements on behalf of the Government. We have also read in the press that he now parks his motorcade in the space hitherto reserved for the President.

It is one thing to believe you are in power and a completely different thing to set the agenda. ODM’s long cherished dream of a country governed from Parliament Road and away from State House Road is beckoning really fast.

This, in itself, is not a bad thing because the ODM has a right as a political party to propagate its political ideology as forcefully as it can. But unless PNU and its affiliate parties wake up and smell the roses, the fate of the new Constitution which Kenyans so eagerly await may already have been sealed.

(Kamau Mbugwa is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya)

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