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How BBI tackles exclusivity and winner-takes-all
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|How BBI tackles exclusivity and winner-takes-all by Kenyans247(1): Fri 06, November, 2020 01:15am|
What you need to know:
On February 8 last year, Deputy President William Ruto gave a keynote speech at Chatham House, London, that touched on Kenya’s national unity and regional integration, including constitutional change.
Having listened to Dr Ruto at the Bomas of Kenya launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, methinks it behoves us to separate the wheat from the chaff on its two contentious proposals.
In London, the DP acknowledged that, as much as the 2010 Constitution had brought much political and economic change, many Kenyans still had serious concerns on “the fundamental normative architecture of the Constitution”. By this he meant our ‘winner-take-all’ elections and exclusivity. But he may not know they are independent concepts.
Factors in his proposals
He took issue with how it structures the Executive and deals with the Opposition: “The current formulation undermines the Executive accountability and saddles our democracy with a headless, incoherent and dysfunctional opposition. The Constitution, neither recognises nor creates the functions of the official Opposition. It is not proper that the leader of a party gathering the second-highest votes has no formal constitutional role”.
He had criticised proposals like the creation of the office of Prime Minister and two deputies but proposed a constitutional position of Leader of the Official Opposition in the National Assembly.
But at Bomas on October 26, the DP ditched his Chatham House position. First, he didn’t acknowledge that BBI factors in some of his proposals and seemed to have forgotten or abandoned his operational definition of winner-takes-all. Further, knowingly or unknowingly, he wrongly argued that a Premier won’t cure winner-takes-it all and that the discussion on inclusivity must include the poor.
There’s a need for clarification here. First, a PM and two deputies does not deal with the winner-takes-all problem. This position, hence expanding the Executive, deals with inclusivity. With the expansion, BBI is alive to the fact that ours is a deeply divided society that needs a representative Executive.
This Executive won’t accommodate everyone but at least it will comprise more than what we have. And this is different from economic empowerment. Bringing in and equating the discussion of economic empowerment with inclusivity at the national level will only but poison the well.
Secondly, winner-takes-all is dealt with through the creation of the office of the Opposition leader. The reality of our politics is that more than 90 per cent of the votes cast in a presidential election are shared between the winner and the runner-up.
Therefore, assigning the candidate who garners the second-highest votes in a presidential poll a constitutional mandate, and not leaving him or her high and dry on the streets, in our case, deals with the challenge of winner-takes-all in our elections.
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