NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 10 – Kenya’s electoral system could be recalibrated to a party-based system akin to South Africa’s party-list proportional representation system under which the political formation garnering most votes in a general election names the country’s President and Deputy President.
The constitutional amendment proposal was fronted on Tuesday by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi during his presentation before the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) steering committee chaired by Senator Yusuf Haji (Garissa).
“In order to build a bridge that allows us to transcend the pitfalls of heavily contested presidential elections, it is proposed to remove election of President by universal suffrage,” he submitted arguing, “instead, the popular will of the people manifested through one man one vote should be actuated through the nomination of President by the Party that garners majority votes at the general election.”
Muturi proposed a similar model at the county level where he recommended an end to popular gubernatorial polls and instead a party-list model where the most popular party picks a governor and their deputy.
In his submissions, Muturi recommended the introduction of a performance-based criteria to limit political parties, a proposal he said will entrench political party discipline.
“I propose that a political Party that fails to win any seat in the National Assembly at a general election should be struck off the register of political parties. Additionally, stricter provisions should apply in the registration of new political parties,” the two-term speaker told the 14-member BBI steering committee.
He also recommended the remodeling of representation at the National Assembly to achieve fair representation and address concerns of disproportionate constituencies, a concern particularly in densely populated constituencies.
“The National Assembly should represent the people of Kenya on the basis of a national formula that as nearly as possible reflects the principle of one man one vote, rather than on the basis of the outcome of tribal and clan contests at the constituencies,” Muturi said.
“What would it take to achieve a ratio where each Member of the National Assembly represents 200,000 citizens?” he posed.
Muturi’s proposals coming at a time of heightened succession politics could signal a major fallout ahead of the 2022 elections with a section of politicians having listed the election of the President directly by individual voters as an irreducible minimum in the constitutional review debate.
Increased infighting within the ruling Jubilee Party where lawmakers allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta have openly opposed a succession plan that would see Deputy President William Ruto take over the party’s leadership could further compound factionalism within the governing political formation ahead of 2022 polls.
While Ruto has asserted he will support whoever the party names as its candidate for the 2022 presidential elections, a change in the rules of engagement could see him elbowed out of the contest to succeed Kenyatta.
How does party-list proportional representation system work?
In South Africa, the Electoral Commission divides the number of valid votes cast by the number of available seats (400) in Parliament to determine the number of votes a party needs for a single seat.
In 2014 for instance, a party needed 45,000 votes for a single seat in the House.
An extra seat is added to a party with the highest number of leftover votes after diving the votes it garnered by the set quota.
The governing African National Congress (ANC) for instance bagged 230 seats in the National Assembly in 2019 making the post-apartheid formation the party with the largest number of lawmakers in the 400-member Assembly followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) with 84, and 44 members respectively.
ANC has also single-handedly elected South African presidents beginning with Nelson Mandela in 1994 after the party won 63 per cent of the votes in that year’s election, Thabo Mbeki (1997 – 2007), Jacob Zuma (2007 – 2017) and presently Cyril Ramaphosa.