Saturday, August 24, 2013

The future sans the Eleventh Parliament

Should the President be elected in a two-step process involving a popular election and an electoral college? Should the President be compelled to appear in Parliament to answer for his administration or, in the alternative, should an elected or appointed Prime Minister, do so? CORD has made these the cornerstones of its proposals for ensuring the accountability of the National Executive. The Coalition is wrong.

When ODM, in 2010, preferred the Presidential System over the Parliamentary one, it did so in the full knowledge of the key features of a Presidential System. In the run up to the referendum that year, Kenyans were acutely aware of the failings of the Parliamentary System. When Raila Odinga came out in support of the former over the other, he did so knowing full well what it would entail. He was not misled. If there was any misleading, he did it to himself, and then misled the millions of Kenyans who ratified his proposal at the referendum. Indeed, it was a rare meeting of minds between ODM and the erstwhile PNU. It is cheeky and irresponsible for the descendants of ODM to now claim that the system they endorsed is not the system that Kenyans demand.

The presidential system requires the separation of powers with checks and balances to ensure effectiveness. The flaw, if that at all, is that when a party has a majority in Parliament and forms the National Executive, it might use its parliamentary majority to rubberstamp the proposals of the National Executive. The CORD minority is feeling the heat of this Tyranny of Numbers, hence their sour-grapes desire to amend the Constitution to whittle down the power of the Majority Party.

The problem with the system today is not that it is inadequate to check the power of the National Executive; it is that the Majority Leaders in both the National Assembly and the Senate have chosen political short-term glory over long tern institutional development. Messrs Aden Duale and Kithure Kindiki, respectively, have such a poor appreciation of their proper role in Parliament that they have done precious little to hold the National Executive to account for its errors of omission and commission. Summoning the President to Parliament to account for his administration will not change the effect of the Tyranny of Numbers; indeed, it might wed Parliament and the National Executive ever closer together to the overall detriment of governance, transparency or accountability. If Raila Odinga and his acolytes refuse to acknowledge this, they do not deserve to ever form the government.

The solution is not ensuring the President is made to appear in Parliament, or the creation of the post of Prime Minister once again. Third time will definitely not be the charm. The solution lies in Parliament playing its proper role of overseeing the work of the National Executive. The President and Deputy President do not have day-to-day responsibility for the management of their administration; that job now lies in the hands of the Cabinet and Principle Secretaries. If there are men and women who should speak for the National Executive it is these. If Parliament wishes to hold the National Executive to account, it can only do so by summoning and examining the Cabinet and Principle Secretaries before the proper committees.

Parliament should stop pretending that it is a part of the National Executive or that the Majority Party must always be in lock-step with their counterparts in the National Executive. Some of the National Executive's actions will adversely affect Parliament; it is for Parliament to take all necessary measures to protect its independence and the exercise of its oversight powers for the benefit of Kenyans, not just the National Executive. That day, sadly, is not today. It will take a more intelligent Parliament, led by more intelligent Majority and Minority Leaders, before Parliament truly comes into its own. The current crop is weak-kneed, indecisive, incompetent and too mule-headed to be trusted to properly manage the affairs of government. It's time we recognised this and made plans for the future. Without them.

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