Did Kenya adopt MMP?

A student’s project prompted me to google “Kenya MMP.”

The first “hit” was for the Maasai Music Project, which sounds interesting, but not quite what I was looking for.

The second suggests that MMP was at least seriously considered, if not ultimately adopted, as part of the recent constitutional amendment process.

Maybe a reader knows how this process turned out…

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Kenya’s draft constitution

One of the tasks of the rather odd and cumbersome “power-sharing” executive that was set up in Kenya after the disputed election of 2007 was to produce a new constitution to be in place before the next elections.

The Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review has now produced a draft. Robert Elgie quotes from the key provisions regarding the appointment, and removal, of the prime minister and cabinet.

It would seem that, if enacted, Kenya’s new constitution would transform the system into a premier-presidential system: i.e., continuing to have a popularly elected presidency, but primary executive powers vested in a cabinet accountable exclusively to the parliamentary majority.

Kenya election declared

The East African Standard reports:

The Electoral Commission of Kenya has declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner of the 2007 polls and he was immediately sworn in at State House gardens, Nairobi. He will now serve a second term in office.

The election was close, and various news reports for days had indicated that the challenger, Rail Odinga, was leading vote counts. The official result is:

    Kibaki 4,584,721
    Odinga 4,352,993

Despite the news reports that the official result has been declared (and the ‘winner’ sworn in!), a check of the Electoral Commission website at around noon (west coast North America time) still says, “These results are provisional; winning candidate not yet declared.” It also shows Odinga with just over 1.5 million votes and Mwai with about 1.1 million. There were seven other candidates, but only one with over 100,000 (and actually only that one with even 5,000 in this partial return).

The outcome is “headed for a major dispute.”

In the parliamentary elections, several close allies of the (allegedly) reelected President, including the Vice President as 12 of 32 cabinet members, were defeated.

As I said in the previous Kenya planting, at the time of the “Oranges and Bananas” constitutional referendum, Kenya’s president is popularly elected, but the government structure is almost parliamentary. The President must be a member of the National Assembly, and he appoints (and may dismiss) a vice president from among the members of the National Assembly. The VP is defined as “the principal assistant of the President in the discharge of his functions.”

The presidential election rules are regionally qualified plurality, or what is sometimes known as a “distribution requirement.” The winner must have a nationwide plurality and at least 25% in at least five of the eight provinces. It appears that the dispute in this election concerns the plurality itself, rather than the distribution.

Fruits and Votes in Kenya: The oranges have it

The battle of bananas and oranges has been resolved in favor of the citrus. In a campaign in which the fruits were used as the symbols for the yes and no sides, respectively, voters have delivered a resounding defeat to President Mwai Kibaki’s plans to overhaul the constitution.

It is quite a remarkable turn of events. Kenya is dubiously democratic, and yet the president’s unpopularity resulted in a defeat for an ambitious political agenda. It also had split his own hand-picked cabinet, which was fired as soon as the results were known. Today the president prorogued parliament (i.e., prevented it from resuming its sessions, to thwart its becoming “an arena to fight the post-referendum war”).

Under the current constitution, the president is popularly elected, but the government structure is almost parliamentary. The President must be a member of the National Assembly, and he appoints (and may dismiss) a vice president from among the members of the National Assembly. The VP is defined as “the principal assistant of the President in the discharge of his functions.”

The president, the vice president, and all ministers (who also must be assembly members) are “collectively responsible” before the assembly, although the term seems undefined, which I take to imply that there is not a requirement for the executive to maintain assembly confidence. The president may, at any time, prorogue parliament, or dissolve it; if he dissolves, he must stand for reelection at the same time as parliament.

The proposed new constitution would have created a post of prime minister and separated the presidency from the assembly. As best I can tell, all sides agree on this principle, but disagree substantially over the relative powers of the president and prime minister. See, for example, the report of the BBC on 18 November:

Those who favour the new draft – which include much of the present Narc [National Rainbow Coalition] government – want a strong president.

Those opposed want a system of power-sharing between the president and a prime minister – a model familiar in France and much of eastern Europe.

It has sparked furious debate and violence on the streets. So far nine people, including several children, have been killed in the clashes.

All sides agree that the present constitution needs updating. The draft before the people is the product of a tangled and complex series of negotiations.

A version of the constitution calling for a dual system of power-sharing between president and elected prime minister was approved last year.

But it was overturned by President Mwai Kibaki’s supporters in parliament and re-written. The draft that is now being put to a referendum preserves the all-powerful president.

There is a draft of a proposed constitution at the site of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, but it is not clear if this is the version prior to, or after, the assembly’s amendedments.

As The Head Heeb notes, “Kibaki’s overreaching seems, at least for the time being, to have killed off some very necessary reforms.”

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Blogs for Industry notes the stark regional divide in the outcome