14 August 2013

Kenya: Raila Allies Kick Off a Referendum Bid

Photo: Felix Magara/Capital FM
Former prime minister Raila Odinga during the general elections last March.

Nairobi — Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga's aide Eliud Owalo is spearheading a movement to change how Kenyans elect their President.

The March 4th Movement (M4M), also headed by activist Okiya Omtata, wants the President to be elected through a system similar to that used in the United States of America - the Electoral College.

"We want the Presidential votes to be aggregated at the county level negating the need for transmission of results and an avenue through which they can be tampered with," Omtata said.

M4M is proposing a system where each county gets only as many presidential votes as there are constituencies including one for the Governor, Senator and County Women's Representative.

The movement insists that their proposed system is nothing like the parliamentary system in countries such as the United Kingdom and allows the public to vote directly for the presidential candidate of their choice.

"What we are saying is that whichever presidential candidate garners the highest number of votes - even by one - in a constituency, takes the one vote allocated to that constituency," Omtata explained.

A system which if adopted, Omtata says, would give the minority communities a greater say on who becomes President, "You would need 50 percent plus one vote to win and that one vote could come from Lamu which has but two constituencies."

M4M therefore plans to collect one million signatures which they will submit to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) together with their proposed constitutional amendment to the procedure of electing a President.

The IEBC would then present the amendment to the 47 County Assemblies and if the majority of the County Assemblies approve it, it shall be introduced in Parliament, "without delay," - Article 257 of the Constitution provides.

And if the majority, in both houses, supports the amendment, it would be placed before the president for assent but should the amendment fail to pass the parliamentary stage, a referendum would be called for.

In order to garner these signatures and consolidate public support for their proposed amendment, M4M plans to publicly launch their campaign on August 22 and hold its first rally on August 24 in Mlolongo.

But while it denies affiliation to any political party, the ruling party has criticised the movement for clamouring to make changes to a presidential system that is yet to be truly tried and tested.

Omtata is however adamant that a collegiate system would be the best thing for Kenya, "My desire is to see a day when a European Kenyan can stand up and become a President like Obama in the US. Where a Somali can stand and be a President of Kenya."

"We must get away from the idea that you must be a Luhya, you must be Kikuyu, you must be a Kalenjin, you must be a Kamba to have any chance at the Presidency. We must move away from that because our best President could be an El Molo who can't raise a thousand votes."


Olive Burrows has been writing features for the last five years having studied communication at Daystar University. She hopes to make a difference through human interest features and is passionate about the environment. She hopes to grow her experience doing radio and video features at Capital FM and to contribute to the brand's tradition of trend setting.

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