, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 18 – The Cabinet has set the stage for the first referendum to amend the new Constitution after arguing that the provision for a third of Members of Parliament to be from one gender is not attainable.
A Cabinet meeting on Thursday resolved to form a task force to prepare a Constitution Amendment Bill to deal with the one third gender representation requirement which it termed “technically unachievable under the current stipulation.”
The Cabinet however said that it had approved the Elections Bill, which had initially set out a formula through which the gender provision would be met.
The formula, which was first proposed by a women’s lobby group before being endorsed by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission, reserves 72 constituencies (that will be randomly selected) for single gender participation.
“With regard to the requirement for one-third representation in Parliament by either gender, Cabinet decided to set up a task force to prepare a constitution amendment bill to deal with this important requirement that is technically impossible to achieve under the current stipulation,” read the statement.
Under the new Constitution, Article 27 (8) states that the State shall take legislative measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.
Further, Article 257 of the Constitution lays down a long procedure through which amendments may be introduced to the supreme law. It also states that amendments on matters that touch on some Chapters like the Bill of Rights (under which Article 27 (8) falls) must be subjected to a referendum.
Women Lobby groups have already gone to Court in the past accusing the Judicial Service Commission of ignoring the gender provision by only nominating one woman to the Supreme Court.
Concerns surrounding gender balance were also raised when President Mwai Kibaki first nominated the top three judicial nominees who were all men.
Although IIEC Chairman Issack Hassan noted that the formula would help ensure that the Constitution was not flouted after next year’s polls, its constitutionality was questioned, with several individuals arguing that it restricted men from running in their preferred constituencies and also limited the electorate’s possible choices.
“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 had said in July.
Mr Hassan also explained that the formula would ensure that at least 117 women made it to the National Assembly after the polls.
The Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) has already foreseen a situation where the Elections Bill, the Political Parties Bill and the Public Financial Management Bill will go beyond the August 27 deadline.
CIOC Abdikadir Mohammed explained that the three Bills would be delayed as there was a chance that their debate would be highly charged.
“We might have political fights or policy fights on these Bills, which is normal, so they can delay. But on the other Bills there is a broad consensus so we will have them on time,” he argued.
He however maintained that the tight timelines on all the other Bills would be met.