Kenya General Election Series: I’m Registered, What Now?

The Kenyan elector’s registration exercise ends today. Records show that a little over 12 million Kenyans have registered to participate in next year’s general elections. So after the fanfare about registration what’s next?

Now Kenyans must embark on the arduous task of choosing their next leaders. Sadly, most Kenyans may not be aware of the positions available for elections. This article is meant to highlight what posts are being vied for in order to empower the many (or the few) who may not know.

There are eight categories of political posts that need occupants after March 4th 2013. These are the President/Deputy President, Governor/Deputy Governor, Senator, Member of National Assembly, Woman Representative and the County Representative. I will start with the president and work my way down. Please note that they are in no particular order.

PRESIDENT/DEPUTY PRESIDENT

He/She (or vice versa) will be the Head of State and Government, ideally putting an end to the grand coalition (confusion) government and the Office of the Prime Minister. The holder of this office would also be the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of Kenya’s Defence Forces among other responsibilities [see Article 131 (1)]. However, this person will no longer be a Member of Parliament [Article 131 (3)] as the Constitution of Kenya 2010 introduces a Presidential form of executive government (in line with the doctrine of separation of powers).

Next year’s election will be the first of its kind in the 49 years Kenya has been independent. For the first time in Kenyan history, Kenyans will have a say on who becomes the DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Yes, the president must choose a running mate before the general elections [Article 148 (1) & (3)]. The voter’s voice will now be heard on the approval of the Deputy President. This calls a voter to consider judiciously not only the presidential candidate but the deputy presidential candidate.

GOVERNOR/DEPUTY GOVERNOR

Two new offices have been created in tandem with the 47 regions known as counties under the constitution of Kenya 2010. This is the office of the Governor and that of the Deputy Governor (gubernatorial offices). Hitherto, these offices did not exist and Kenyans registered to participate in next year’s election would have the privilege (or agony) of electing them for each of the counties [Article 180 (1) & (5)].

Under the constitution, the executive government is divided into two tiers: the national and county. Being part of the executive branch of government, they are the executive heads of the county government. For the sake of simplicity (hopefully not being too simplistic), they are like the president/deputy president of their respective counties. They will be responsible for certain assigned tasks under the constitution in relation to their counties.

SENATOR

Confusion has reigned over what role a senator plays in the new government. This post is in the legislative branch of government thus tasked with making law. A lot of people compare this post to that of governor with respect to seniority; an issue I will consider some other time.

The main task of senators is to protect the interest of counties at the national level [Article 96]. Being legislators, any law that touches on the county system must be approved by the senate house of Parliament. They are also responsible for approving amendments to the constitution. They are 47 in number (elected ones) [Article 98 (1) (a)].

MEMBERS OF NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

Not much has changed for this category of political leadership, well other than the fact that they must pay taxes and if they increase their salaries it would take effect after the general election next following that increment [see Article 210 (3) & 116 (3) respectively]. They are tasked with making law for the nation and have the final say on all matters legislative except those touching on the county system [see Article 95 & 109 (3)]. They are 290 seats for elected ones.

WOMEN REPRESENTATIVES

Introduced to implement the 2/3 gender rule enshrined in the constitution in my opinion. They will be 47 in number and will seat in the National Assembly [Article 97 (1) (b)]. This is a move to encourage women to run for public office and participate in public decision making. A new innovative way of letting women engage in the erstwhile male dominated public domain notwithstanding the recent Judicial Opinion by the Supreme Court on the gender rule.

COUNTY REPRESENTATIVES

Finally, there are the county representatives. This office is responsible for legislative affairs of the county [Article 185 (1)]. The constitution provides duties of the national and county governments. The county governments can make law on matters within its jurisdiction like nursery schools [see Schedule Four].

These are the offices that Kenyans are entrusted to elect leaders to fill thus need be aware of. In the coming general elections, it would profit every voter to consider carefully who’s running for each post as these will be your leaders for the next five years. If you do not, then you automatically lose your moral right to complain if things do go awry.

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