The road to a referendum to amend the 2010 Constitution has begun after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced that it had verified that the ‘Punguza Mzigo’ Initiative met threshold of at least one million signatures.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said in a statement that Ekuru Aukot’s Thirdway Alliance Kenya Party was backed by 1,222,541 registered voters following a verification exercise that kicked off on May 29.
The commission will now send the Initiative’s draft Bill to each of the 47 County Assemblies for consideration within three months from the date of submission by the commission. The Bill needs the support of 24 County Assemblies to sail through.
Thereafter, the Speakers of the respective County Assemblies will submit the decisions of their respective County Assemblies to the Speakers of the National Asembly and the Senate pursuant to Article 257(6) of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.
The Pungusa Mzigo Initiative, among others, seeks to introduce a one 7-year term presidency, address over representation and reduce number of Members of Parliament from the current 416 to 147, use the 47 counties as single constituency unit for purposes of Parliamentary elections to Senate and National Assembly and end historical gender inequality and ensure that Kenyans elect one man and one woman from each of the 47 counties into the National Assembly.
It is also seeking to Abolish nominations in county assemblies and Senate, elevate Senate to be an upper house with veto powers.
According to the Initiative if the Amendment Bill is enacted, the cost of running Parliament will reduce from current Ksh 36.8 billion to Ksh 5 billion per year. This saves tax payers Ksh 31.8 billion.
In addition, the counties revenue share to 35% from the current 15% and the ward will be used as the primary unit of development replacing Constituency Development Fund (CDF) hence taking development to the people hence spurring economic growth.
It also proposes to abolish the position of Deputy Governor with the governor getting powers to nominate from among the duly vetted and appointed County Executive Officers, one of them to be his/her Principal Assistant for purposes of administration. In the unlikely event of the position of Governor falling vacant, the Governor to be elected in a by-election.
The proposed changes also seek to stop the wastage of public funds and cap salaries of elected leaders to a maximum consolidated pay of Ksh 500,000 for the President and Ksh 300,000 for Member of parliament per month. All elected leaders will not be paid any other allowances. Salaries and Remuneration Commission to determine salaries of other elected leaders.
However, the test for the referendum push lies in Parliament as the Bill has to gain the support of members of both Houses, which is unlikely to be easily the case.
However, Article 257 (10) provides that if either House of Parliament fails to pass the Bill, or the Bill relates to a matter specified in 255 (1), the proposed amendment shall be submitted to the people in a referendum.
The latter will essentially apply in the Punguza Mzigo Initiative case as its proposed Bill, among others, seeks to alter the term of office of the President; the functions of Parliament; and the objects, principles and structure of devolved government.