The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati gave a nod to a popular initiative after it successfully presented more than one million signatures for the country to go into a referendum.
Chebukati’s move follows constitutional lawyer Dr Ekuru Aukot and his Thirdway Alliance Party presentation of more than 1.2 million signatures for their Punguza Mizigo Bill 2019 initiative.
The possibility of a referendum sometime next year, according to approximate timelines, could completely change the 2022 political arithmetic.
IEBC’s clearance of the Punguza Mizigo Bill 2019 initiative takes the country to the verge of the first referendum on the 2010 Constitution.
But the initiative that has been downplayed since it started last year could have caught the political bigwigs flat-footed including President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and ODM leader Raila who may now be forced to go back to the drawing table.
In March last year, Kenyatta and Raila formed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which is tasked to collect views across the country with a possible change of the Constitution. This was seen as a process that would lead the country to review the Constitution after five other similar attempts failed.
But now the focus shifts to the County Assemblies, where Aukot’s team is supposed to get the nod of at least 24 of them for the Punguza Mizigo Bill.
It’s expected that the MCAs will then make either an individual or collective stand on the proposals that shall inform the outcome of the vote.
Some county assemblies have already received the Bill from IEBC.
With MCA’s now at the focal point, and many seeing them to be easily compromised, those opposed to the reduction of representation may now turn to county assemblies to try and bring down the Aukot attempt to “punguza mzigo”
The senate which has in the recent past receive a spat from the national assembly could be finding solace in the Aukot bill since one of the proposals in the bill is to make Senate an upper House.
The provision on strengthening Senate and strengthening devolution and guaranteeing 35 percent going to counties is extremely attractive to Senate and there is high chances senators might welcome his proposals based on the current struggle between the two houses.
Among the radical proposals in the Punguza Mizigo Bill is one-term presidency of seven years, the Senate being the Upper House with veto power and the reduction of MPs from 416 to 147.
It also proposes to use the ward as the primary unit of development replacing National Government Constituency Fund (NG-CDF) hence taking development to the people. It also proposes to abolish nominations in county assemblies and Senate.
The bill needs to be passed in at least half of the county assemblies for it to move to the next stage.