The Orange Democratic Movement on Tuesday pushed for the creation of a powerful prime minister’s post with two deputies, sparking fresh debate on the Building Bridges Initiative report, which had proposed a ceremonial PM.
The stand of the most popular opposition party that was key in the passage and adoption of the BBI report by Kenyans, came just a day after Mt Kenya leaders allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta also vouched for a powerful PM.
One of the two deputy PMs, a meeting chaired by opposition chief Raila Odinga said, should be less than 45 years old, a move meant to win youth support.
The creation of a powerful PM post was one of the recommendations that featured prominently during the BBI team’s collection of views before the report was unveiled amid pomp and colour at Bomas of Kenya.
The BBI report has been subjected to further review and fine-tuning by Kenyans ahead of a national convention in January.
ODM’s fresh demands are expected to attract opposition from Jubilee Party leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto, who had earlier shown lukewarm support for BBI before changing tune to support the report after it suggested a mongrel system of governance that is neither pure parliamentary nor presidential, with a weak PM. The ODM call could also re-ignite claims that President Kenyatta’s handlers could be positioning him to be PM after his second term as President ends.
Sources at the five-hour closed-door ODM Parliamentary Group-cum-National Executive Council meeting told the Nation that the leaders suggested that a powerful premier should be appointed from Parliament.
The BBI report proposes that Kenyans continue to elect their President, who remains the Head of State and Government.
The President, it further says, will then appoint an MP from the largest party or coalition in Parliament as Prime Minister who will take up the position after being approved by Parliament. The PM will supervise the execution of day-to-day functions and affairs of the government, in addition to being leader of government business in the National Assembly. On the President’s tasking, he or she will chair Cabinet sub-committees.
However, legislators who attended the meeting, held at Convent Hotel in Nairobi’s Hurlingham area, expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal, insisting that they wanted a PM with executive powers.
“We want someone with power. This one who is an appointee of the President can be kicked out any time,” said an MP from Migori County. This position was supported by two other legislators.
The MPs also told Mr Odinga that a referendum on the BBI report should be held at least by mid next year in order to start implementation of the report. The party also wants the Cabinet to be appointed from Parliament. While the party supported the 35 per cent revenue allocation to counties as currently contained in the report, it wants the sharable revenue to be based on the last audited financial report and not national government budget estimates.
The lawmakers also called on the party secretariat to make available copies of the report so they can distribute them to their supporters as they explain the party position on the document.
“We need copies of the summarised BBI report on the ground so that we can tell our people one message,” said a first-term MP from Western.
The party also opposed the current proposal, which limits Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officers to preside over only one election and restricts procurement officers to a two-year contract, warning that the move will be counter-productive. The source told the Nation that Mr Odinga assured the MPs that “all their concerns are noted and will help in preparing the party position document that will be presented to the BBI team”.
Mr Odinga, later in a statement sent by spokesman Dennis Onyango, told Kenyans to prepare to engage the BBI team, which will be going around the country explaining the document with a view to having all shades of opinion captured.
“Let us do something with the second chance the BBI has accorded us and not waste it in the pursuit of politics as usual. Let’s take this second chance as an opportunity to throw off a legacy of corruption, tribalism, divisions, dysfunctional institutions and mistrust that have held us back for over 50 years,” Mr Odinga said.
However, when he came out to brief the press, ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said that although they had recommended an executive Prime Minister in their proposal to the BBI team, the document does not belong to the party. “As a party we are cognisant of the fact that this process is a consultative give-and-take and that no party or individual can bulldoze the discussion or indeed the outcome. We know that no one person or party is greater than the nation,” Mr Sifuna said.