, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 21 – Debate over the push for a referendum continues to divide public opinion after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) verified over 1.2 million signatures of registered voters presented in support of the Punguza Mizigo Initiative sponsored by Thirdway Alliance party.
Legal experts say the Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot who finished in third place in the 2017 Fresh Presidential Election has his work cut out for him to ensure at least 24 of the 47 county assemblies in the country support the referendum Bill.
Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) Executive Director George Kegoro cautioned Aukot that the political establishment who were caught flatfooted by the IEBC announcement on verification of signatures in support of the Punguza Mizigo Initiative on Thursday.
The Aukot-led initiative had met the constitutional threshold of 1 million signatures for presentation of the proposals for the amendment to the county assemblies.
It seeks to have the number of lawmakers reduced from 416 to 147.
Kegoro points out that by killing the initiative at the county assembly the political class will have effectively eliminated the option of the country having to hold a national referendum on the Aukot’s proposed amendments on the Constitution Kenya promulgated in 2010.
“The possibility of a referendum will change the nature of politics. In particular, the rumoured referendum by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) will now be dancing on a plan that the Punguza Mizigo has established. One possibility is that the political establishment will seek to put Punguza in its place by engineering county assemblies to reject the proposals.”
“There will have to be trade-offs with counties that are currently sulking after a season of hardball politics over national revenue sharing,” KHRC Executive Director adds.
Constitutional lawyer Kamotho Waiganjo on is part says Aukot will need multiple skills to cross this county assembly threshold.
Waiganjo notes that the Punguza Mizigo’s waterloo comes with its attempt to remove all nominated seats in parliament and county assemblies and deals with the gender issue by requiring that each county elects a man and a woman to Parliament.
“It fundamentally goes against the ‘one man- one vote principle’. Kakamega County with its almost 2 million population will have the same number of representatives as Lamu County with its 100,000 residents. This is grossly inequitable. A more prudent approach would have been to go the America way and allocate seats on the basis of population, at least in the National Assembly while leaving the County based seats to the Senate,” he said.
The former Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution Commissioner points to the initiative’s proposal to address the ballooning cost of maintaining elected representatives by fixing remuneration of MPs to Sh300,000 and the President to Sh500,000 as another reason why the political class would want to sabotage Aukot’s push.
“Kenyans will be united in supporting this proposal. Constitutions hardly ever fix such salaries by numbers but this proposal responds to our unique circumstances where MPs will use all tricks in the book to enhance their salaries,” Waiganjo explained.