Is BBI executive plan a recipe for conflict?

Amos Kimunya, MPs

National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya  (centre) when he led a section of Jubilee and ODM lawmakers in declaring support for the BBI at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi on October 22.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The BBI  proposes the president nominates a prime minister from among MPs who form the majority or form the leading coalition of parties in the assembly.
  • Mr Mwangi says that in the event that the President’s party lacks majority in the National Assembly, “he can enter into a cohabitation sort of arrangement like in France.”

Questions have been raised on whether the proposed executive structure could lead to unstable governments should a president’s party be the minority with a prime minister named from an opposition party with the most MPs.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposes the president nominates a prime minister from among MPs who form the majority or form the leading coalition of parties in the assembly.

Some have argued it’s possible that the president’s party might not have a majority in the House, as happened in 2007 when President Kibaki was re-elected but his Party of National Unity had fewer MPs than Mr Raila Odinga’s opposition ODM that had the majority.

Mr Odinga was named Prime Minister in a power-sharing deal to end the post-election violence, and the two leaders were in constant conflict, a situation analysts suggest was only manageable because the premier’s post wasn’t fashioned as powerful as that under the BBI.

BBI steering committee joint secretary Paul Mwangi acknowledges it’s possible that a PM might come from a party other than the president’s and in that case he says the two, though perhaps with different ideologies, should just find a way of working together.

Same party

Political analyst Mr Dismas Mokua argues if the PM and president don’t come from the same party, it could be a recipe for constant conflict. “This is a recipe for high octane politics and we will have a ceremonial president for all intents and purposes. The prime minister may not be as powerful if he or she comes from the same party as the president,” Mr Mokua argues.

He adds: “There is also the probability that the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader can come from the same party. The two will be the centres of power because the president cannot move without their concurrence. The President will have no capacity to implement his or her manifesto (Legislative and Executive Agenda).”

Mr Mwangi says that in the event that the President’s party lacks majority in the National Assembly, “he can enter into a cohabitation sort of arrangement like in France.”

“What would happen is that it would be a kind of a message where people are saying that they liked the policies of a particular party but not its presidential candidate. It behoves both the President and the majority party to find out how they will deliver to the people,” Mr Mwangi suggests.

Cohabitation is a system of divided government that occurs in semi-presidential systems, such as France, whenever the President is from a different political party than the majority of the members of parliament.

Cohabitation occurs

It occurs because such a system forces the president to name a premier who will be acceptable to the majority party within parliament.

Thus cohabitation occurs because of the duality of the executive: an independently elected president and a prime minister who must be acceptable both to this president and to the legislature.

Mr Mokua argues that the BBI proposals on Executive could be a recipe for corruption if the President and Prime Minister are not from the same party.

“The Prime Minister, if from a different party, will require incentives to dance with the President.”

“Recall during the Grand Coalition, Raila Odinga (ODM) had a marginal majority in the House and would have complicated matters for President Kibaki if they were running the nation under the 2010 constitution,” Mr Mokua explains.

The prime minister will be the leader of government business in the National Assembly if the BBI document passes.

The holder of the office will also supervise the execution of the functions of ministries and government departments.

He will also chair Cabinet committee meetings as assigned by the President. Mr Mokua says the BBI proposals have introduced new centres of power with the constituency elections expected to stir more interest as they offer one a chance to join Cabinet.

(Download a copy of the BBI Report: BBI REPORT)

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