BY MURIMI KARANI
The two ballot papers with a pair of photographs for each pick, representing the helm of leadership and the executive arm of government, are now over and done with. It is time to choose the people who will represent our interests at the legislative houses, that is; the National Assembly, the Senate and the County Assembly. It is at this juncture that our pool of candidates will be confined to the polling stations. This is to say that the ballot will differ depending on your county, constituency and ward.
The Constitution, under Article 6, divides the territory of Kenya into 47 counties. These are listed in the First Schedule. The duty of demarcating and delimiting constituencies and wards is bestowed upon the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Currently we have 290 constituencies and 1450 wards.
One of the key things the new Constitution did was to introduce devolution. This meant having two levels of exercising the sovereign power of the Kenyan people; The National level and the County level. To this end, both Governments have their legislative houses namely the County Assembly and the Parliament of Kenya. Article 93 of the Constitution establishes that the Parliament of Kenya consists of the National Assembly and the Senate. Basically the Representatives include;
- The Member of Parliament (MP) who is the Constituency's representative to the National Assembly;
- The Senator who is the County's representative to the Senate;
- The Member of County Assembly (MCA) who is the ward's representative to the County Assembly; and
- The Women Representative who is the Constituency's female representative to the National Assembly.
Prior to the dispensation of the new Constitution, we only had two representatives; that is, MP for National levels and Councilors for Local Governments. The new Constitution brought about devolution that saw the Councilor title changed to the MCA and the introduction of the Senate. It also seeks to bring about Gender Equality which is meant to be provided for through the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule. The two thirds gender rule principle deposes that not more than two thirds of the members of any appointed or elected body shall be of the same gender. This is to say that at least 33.3% of the members shall be of the same gender. To facilitate the realization of the gender rule, the Constitution introduced 47 seats in the National Assembly for women elected by voters of their counties, each county representing a single constituency; these are the representatives referred to as Women representatives.
The word represent may be construed in many different ways and as such it would be imperative that I explain to you who can be an elected representative in this context. The qualifications of the elected representatives are defined by the legislative arms to which they hold membership. They are basically the same across the board with the only difference being the educational criteria. They include;
- Be a registered voter;
- Satisfy the educational, moral and ethical requirements prescribed by the Constitution or an Act of Parliament. The ethical requirements under the Constitution are the provisions on leadership and integrity spelt out in Chapter six of the Constitution. The educational requirements prescribed under the Elections Act, 2011, are that the person must have a post secondary school qualification recognized in Kenya.
- The person must either be nominated by a political party or be an independent candidate and in either case must be supported by at least five hundred registered voters in the ward concerned, (In the case of election to the National Assembly, at least one thousand registered voters in the constituency; In the case of election to the senate, at least two thousand registered voters in the county.)
- The person should not be a state officer or other public officer other than a member of the County Assembly;
- The person should not have held office as a member of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission within five years immediately preceding the date of election.
- The person should have been a citizen of Kenya for at least ten years immediately preceding the date of elections.
- The person should not be a member of a County Assembly.
- The person should not be of unsound mind.
- The person should not be an undischarged bankrupt.
- The person should not be subject to a sentence of imprisonment of at least six months as at the date of registration as a candidate or at the date of election. This disqualification only operates where all possibility of appeal or review of the relevant sentence or decision has been exhausted.
- The person should not be found, in accordance with any law, to have misused or abused a state office or public office or in any way to have contravened the provisions of the Constitution on leadership and integrity. This disqualification also only operates where all possibility of appeal or review of the decision has been exhausted.
As pointed out in our journey through the presidency and the governorship, these are the requirements set upon those vying for the respective seats. Unlike the executive leaders, our representatives are referred to with the honorary title of 'Honourable'; mostly abbreviated to Hon as a prefix to their names.
Having understood who we are dealing with, it is now time to look into what the Legislators do. The answer to that will only come with an understanding of the role of each house;
- The National Assembly: - the house represents the people of the constituencies and special interests. It deliberates on and resolves issues of concern to the people enacting exclusively bills not concerning county. The members exercise oversight over national revenue and its expenditure, state organs and the conduct in the office of the President, Deputy President and other state organs.
- The Senate: - the house represents the counties, and serves to protect the interests of the counties and their government. It debates and approves Bills concerning counties. The members exercise oversight over national revenue allocated to the county governments and state officers by considering and determining any resolution to remove the President or Deputy President.
- The County Assembly: - the house is vested with the legislative authority of the county and members represent the people of the wards and special interest. It makes laws that are necessary for or incidental to the effective performance of the functions and exercise of the powers of the county. The members also exercise oversight over the county executive committee and any other county executive organs.
Basically, the work of any representative is to represent, legislate and exercise oversight. Initially only the Member of Parliament had a kitty, the infamous Constituency Development Fund (CDF), but recent legal developments could see the entire elected representative' leaders have a development fund. I believe you are now ready to make your picks, see you on the other side when we talk about the referee, the offences and court process.