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Kenya: How to get 50:50 gender balance in Parliament

AGORA moderator's picture

We are courting a constitutional crisis! There doesn’t seem to be any serious effort to sort out the challenge of implementing the so-called “two-thirds gender” requirement in Parliament.

Article 27(8) of the Constitution says, in part, that “…the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.” Article 80(b) repeats this rule “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.”

From these clauses, it is clear that fair gender representation in government was a key demand during the constitution-making process. It is therefore surprising that, when defining the membership of Parliament, the Constitution does not talk about the two-thirds requirement. Yet, the County Assemblies have gender balance clause – Article 177(b) creates special nomination seats for this purpose.

SUPER EFFICIENT NUMBERS

I am now convinced that this was an oversight and it needs to be corrected. The last time a solution was proposed, it was modelled along the structure of County Assemblies; that is, creating additional nomination seats in both houses of Parliament. The problem with that arrangement is that it has the potential to produce a very large number of MPs. Proof of this is evident: there are 1,450 wards, but we have 2,526 members (MCAs)! The extra 1,000 are nominated.

If we did the same in Parliament, there is a very real possibility that the membership will rise above 600 in the National Assembly and 100 in the Senate. To avoid this bloated representation, we need to approach the issue with a fresh pair of glasses. The Constitution needs  major revisions in the sections dealing with representation.

We start by abolishing the Senate! The job of protecting the interests of counties can (and has been) ably done by the Council of Governors.  The oversight role over counties can go to Parliament. Next, we change the composition of the National Assembly to be two members from each county – one man and one woman. This will automatically cure the gender balance problem: the ratio will be 50:50! The number of elected MPs will drop to 94.

We may add, say, 16 nominated members to take care of special interest groups. This would bring the total membership to 110 – a  lean and, hopefully, super-efficient number.

In counties assemblies, we remove the present ward boundaries and replace them with those of current constituencies. Then we use a membership structure similar that of the National Assembly; that is, one man and one woman from each constituency.

This will cut down number of MCAs from 2,526 to just 580. We may add, say 5 nominated MCAs per county to take care of special interests. That brings the total to 815 – another lean and, hopefully, super-efficient number.

This Article has been cross-posted from: http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/lifestyle/How-to-get-5050-gender-balance-in-Parliament-Senate/1214-3401646-7xd5pc/