Provisional results indicate that 67% of Kenyans voted in favor of the proposed draft constitution. In all provinces but the Rift Valley and Eastern, Kenyans voted overwhelmingly in favor of the document. Rift Valley saw the stiffest opposition to the new constitution, recording a 62% NO vote. This was however expected since the regional political supremos, William Ruto and former president Moi, had vigorously campaigned against the document. In Eastern Province vice president Kalonzo Musyoka was left exposed after a strong showing by the NO side in his backyard. The vice president campaigned for the document but faced insurgent local politicians who appear to have proved that Mr. Musyoka does not have as much influence in the region as he would have us believe. Given Kenya’s highly regionalized national politics, the poor showing by Mr. Musyoka in his own backyard will have interesting implications for the Kibaki succession politics.
Of interest later today will be the breakdown of how individual MPs fared in influencing the vote in their own constituencies. Sadly, outside of Nairobi and other major urban centres most voters did not vote for the new constitution on its merits but followed the advice of their representatives, or their opponents. The most vivid example of this was in North Eastern province where quite a few number of voters turned up expecting to vote in a general election. It might be time the government issued free radio sets to families in the arid north of the country.
In other news, Kenyans appear to have learned their lesson in 2007 about election-related violence. Throughout the last few days the tv screens have been filled with programs and advertisements reminding people to keep the peace.
Kenyans have the chance to vote in a new constitution come August 4th. The referendum vote has created a divide in Kenyan society, pitting clerics and politicians allied to William Ruto against Kenya’s wider political establishment. Kenya’s quasi-dyarchy fully backs the new document. The church opposes the document on the grounds that it allows for abortion and disproportionately favors Muslims by providing for Kadhi’s courts. William Ruto and his allies do not like the document because it will perpetuate the centralization of land management, something that is dear to the hearts of most of their constituents.
The new document is not perfect. But it’s infinitely better than the colonial constitution that we have had since independence. For one it provides for separation of powers. The president and his cabinet will no longer be members of parliament. It also gives parliament more teeth. The provision to channel funds to local governments is a brilliant idea. Corruption will make a dent on the funds, no doubt, but local elections should attenuate the effects of graft. I only hope that county governments will be allowed to compete with each other and experiment with policy.
If I were to make improvements to the document I would provide greater autonomy to major towns and cities. I would also stagger elections so that not all parliamentary elections coincide with presidential elections. I would have given supreme court judges lifetime security of tenure. Lastly, I would have granted Mr. Ruto his wish and decentralized the management of land – but set national minimum requirements with regard to land use and taxation, especially of idle land.