So the other day William Ruto, a prominent national leader, proposed that parliament, instead of Omondi, Kamau and Muchama, should elect the president. His rationale was that the presidency has grown into a divisive rather than a unifying figure. That Kenyans have come to view competition for the post as a do or die, as was seen earlier this year when supporters of Kibaki and Raila killed, looted and maimed in the name of their respective candidates.
To some extent Ruto is right. The Kenyan presidency has been bastardized by the way the last elections were handled. It is because of the presidency that more than 1000 Kenyans died and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes. The country is yet to fully recover from the polarizing effects of the events that followed Kivuitu’s sham of an election. So may be if we took away the winner-takes-all nature of the presidency we can reduce the risk of having another fiasco like we did in Decemeber of last year. Then we can have a very decentralized form of competition for constituency seats and then the party with the highest number of seats can form the next government. We shall in effect have a parliamentary system, with parliament having the power to recall an ill-performing president.
I have nothing against the above argument. I believe that the more checks we have the better. And we can kind of tweak Ruto’s suggestion a bit to have a Premier with executive powers elected by parliament and a president with ceremonial powers – either elected by the same parliament (but with a longer tenure) or by the people (again with a longer tenure than the Premier).
The only problem with this proposition is that I don’t think Kenya is ready for this yet. Our MPs are as corrupt as they are mindless and irresponsible. What stops them from being bribed to change governments every two days? Plus such strict parliamentary systems are highly unstable. Look at Israel and Italy for instance. They change governments every few months. This is the last thing we need in a highly tribalized young democracy like Kenya. We need stability in our politics and economic policies. Only a stable presidential system can provide this, for now. May be when we are more stable economically and have credible, stable and transparently run political parties we can flirt with the idea of having a parliamentary system.