What you need to know:
- The Bill seeks to amend the 2010 Constitution to alter the system of government from purely presidential to a hybrid arrangement that will see the reintroduction of the post of official opposition leader.
- It also seeks to have Cabinet ministers appointed from among members of the National Assembly, as well as increase the allocation to counties from a basis of 15 to 35 per cent, among others.
All eyes are now on Parliament as it rushes against time to enact a referendum law to guide the conduct of referenda in the country. This fol-lows the publication of the draft Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 that was contained in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) re-port unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga last week.
The Bill seeks to amend the 2010 Constitution to alter the system of government from purely presidential to a hybrid arrangement that will see the reintroduction of the post of official opposition leader. It also seeks to have Cabinet ministers appointed from among members of the National Assembly, as well as increase the allocation to counties from a basis of 15 to 35 per cent, among others.
Already, the National Assembly is in the process of merging two referenda Bills published by two of its committees — Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) and Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) — to streamline the process.
However, to ensure a seamless process, Parliament must ensure that the gaps in the current referendum process are filled before the country heads to the plebiscite. To trigger a referendum, one requires to be supported by at least one million signatures of registered voters across the country.
JLAC chairman Muturi Kigano (Kangema) says the referendum law will address all the current loopholes for a credible process.
Currently Article 257 of the Constitution provides for amendment of the Constitution through a popular initiative but has holes that can be filled through legislative or constitutional amendments. The Elections Act also provides on how a referendum should be handled, but all that is not adequate.
The current fissures in the law may have largely contributed to the collapse of the 2015 Okoa Kenya referendum proposal by Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord), then led by ODM leader Raila Odinga. A similar fate befell the Punguza Mizigo Bill of 2019 by the Thirdway Alliance Party in its bid to, among others, change the Constitution to reduce the size of Parliament.
1 million registered voters
For instance, Article 257 (4) of the Constitution provides that the promoters of a popular initiative shall deliver the draft Bill and the sup-porting signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
The commission shall then verify that the initiative is supported by at least one million registered voters, but the lack of a clear guideline means that currently IEBC verifies the referendum signatures on its own whims.
In March 2015 IEBC announced the collapse of the Okoa Kenya initiative at the signature verification stage, on account that some of the signatures presented appeared in the shape of animals while many booklets had entries that were illegible.
The 2010 referendum was guided by the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Act, 2008 and the Constitution of Kenya Review Act of 2008 and was overseen by the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC).