Legislators mull role of two DPs if law changed

Monday, September 20th, 2021 00:00 |
Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni (left) with his Kinangop counterpart Zachary Kwenya during a past press briefing at Parliament Buildings. Photo/PD/File

Members of Parliament working on a new push to amend the Constitution were yesterday grappling with the powers and functions of the two proposed Deputy President positions.

Of particular concern to the MPs, who sit on the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) of the National Assembly, is which of the two deputy presidents should act in the absence of the president.

“We have finalised the Bill on the expansion of the Executive but first we must address some grey area around the creation of the two positions of deputy president.

There are questions on which one of them will assume the role of the Head of State in absence of the President.

The Bill needs to put clarity on the matter,” said Committee chairman Jeremiah Kioni.

He added: “We are doing final touches on the Bill that will allow the President to appoint ministers from Parliament and will be subjected to public participation.”

Kioni’s committee is currently meeting in Mombasa to fine tune a Bill that is expected to be tabled before the National Assembly when it resumes from recess in two weeks’ time.

It proposes several amendments to the Constitution to create the positions of prime minister, two deputy presidents and two deputy premiers.

“The dilemma is to ensure that one of the deputy presidents does not appear to be junior to the other in the power hierarchy,” said a member of the committee who requested anonymity.

MPs have proposed that the amendments be voted for or against in a national referendum to be held on the same day as the next General Election set for August 9 next year.

The dilemma the committee is facing over the two deputy presidents rekindles memories of the turf wars between the then Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka in the grand coalition government of between 2008 and 2013.

Grand coalition

The then Constitution was not clear  on who between the two was second to President Mwai Kibaki in the pecking order.

Kalonzo, who was rewarded with the post for forming an alliance with the then government led by Kibaki in the aftermath of the disputed 2007 election was often fronted to checkmate Raila, leading to frequent squabbles over leadership of Government Business in Parliament.

Whereas in Parliament the Constitution mandated Raila to play the role of representing the government, Kalonzo would at times come with statements from the same government.

This is the area the Kioni-led committee wants to iron out before the bill is tabled before Parliament.

“We do not want to find ourselves in a situation similar to that one during the grand coalition government.

We want the role of each officeholder defined properly,” Kioni told People Daily.

Kioni said the committee had also scheduled a meeting with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to consult on the creation of more constituencies.

“People must divorce the process of making constitutional amendments from any particular leaders.

The constitutional amendments must be made to reduce political temperatures,” said Kioni.

He hit out at Deputy President William Ruto for his criticism of the latest initiative to amend the Constitution.

“The DP is saying that lawmakers cannot sit in some room and decide on the Constitution. We can even sit on top or even under a tree.

Despite opposing the Constitution, he has never introduced any amendments to it. He opposed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). He now opposes the amendments,” Kioni said.

But another member of the committee Daniel Rono (Keiyo South) differed with Kioni on the creation of the extra positions in the Executive.

“This was a suggestion made by the chairman but has not been tabled before the committee,” Rono claimed.

He said members only agreed on the need to create more constituencies and drafted a proposal to be forwarded to the IEBC for consideration.

“We have agreed on the idea to create more constituencies, however since the electoral commission is the constitutionally mandated body to delimit boundaries, we will present our proposal to be looked into,” said Rono.

He said the committee had also unanimously backed the Bill seeking to have Cabinet ministers picked from among elected MPs.

“The committee has endorsed the proposal to have MPs picked to be ministers and so we will back the Bill currently before the National Assembly,” he said.

The implication of the proposed changes is that the executive will be expanded by a further five positions if Kenyans vote for the changes.

Said Kioni: “We want to have the referendum question be included in the General Election vote as the seventh ballot paper, this will align the process after which the positions will be created.”

Attorney General

He did not explain what process his committee will follow in passing the Bill since they must undergo public participation before proceeding to the Second Reading.

Kioni, however, revealed that a number of amendments were still awaiting approval by Parliament and hoped that members would pass them before the end of the year.

Kioni’s committee has also published another Bill that seeks to amend Article 90 of the Constitution to make provision for political parties to nominate unsuccessful presidential candidates and their running mates to the National Assembly and the Senate.

The Bill also seeks to have the Attorney-General perform the functions of a Cabinet Secretary as assigned by the President as well as to allow a governor to appoint MCAs as members of the county executive committee.

The implication of the proposed amendments is that they would touch on the oversight role of Parliament since Cabinet Secretaries will now sit in the House.

But a group of MPs led by Aden Duale (Garissa Township) wants all the Bills relating to the BBI campaign suspended.

Speaker Justin Muturi is set to make a ruling on the matter immediately the House resumes on Tuesday September 28.

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