Ruto backs referendum push, calls for creation of opposition post

Seth Onyango @SethManex

Deputy President William Ruto has proposed the creation of the official Opposition in Parliament asserting the current set up undermines checks and balances on the Executive. He said the leader of the party garnering the second highest votes has no formal constitutional role.

“Elections in Kenya are close-run contest. Often enough, the winner and runner-up achieve more than five million votes. The winner ascends to a formally constituted leadership role while the runners-up becomes a virtual stranger in leadership,” he said while addressing Chatham House, London Friday.

His proposal comes even as the DP identified failure by politicians to accept poll outcome as the biggest challenge bedeviling the country’s electoral system.

In what appeared to be a thinly veiled attack on opposition Nasa presidential candidate in the last General Election Raila Odinga, Ruto said people participate in elections with one outcome in mind – victory.

Speaking during a public lecture at Chatham House, London in the United Kingdom, the DP criticised individuals he did not name for the country’s woes.

The real problem, from where I sit, is not management of elections but that we have people who participate in the election with only one outcome in mind…to win. That is not how democracy operates…you must accept either outcome,” he said.

Raila has accused the government of rigging the successive elections that he has participated in, top being the 2007 polls that was followed by violence.

In 2017, he declined defeat and successfully contested the outcome in the Supreme Court, which nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory.

In his petition, Raila argued there were gross electoral malpractices that was abetted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). But yesterday Ruto defended the polls agency arguing it has become a scapegoat for poll losers.

“I believe very strongly that in our politics, IEBC is the least of our problems. We have used IEBC as a convenient ‘excuse’ for those who do not win elections,” he said.

“In every election, there are winners and losers. That is the principal tenet of democracy. The right to challenge poll outcomes is a right guaranteed under the Constitution.”

And while endorsing the push for a referendum, the DP proposed that poll losers play an active role in checks and balances.

“In a presidential race, I would propose that the first runners-up should automatically be the leader of the opposition,” he said. He suggested a system where the first runners-up and the running mate become Members of Parliament.

Additionally, he proposed that the Deputy President would assume the Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly adding that the structure should be adopted in counties.

“In my considered opinion, the Senate should be converted into an Upper House. As it is, it is in between many things,” he said.

At the same time the, DP argued that it would cost taxpayers billions to hold a referendum ahead of  the next General Election.

“We need to ask ourselves: Do we carry out a referendum alongside the general elections? Do we have the resources to do a census in 2019, boundaries review in the next year and an election thereafter with a referendum in between?” he said.

“More importantly, Cabinet Secretaries should be ex-officio Members of Parliament where they can attend a session every week to respond to issues of national importance.” He argued that this would create synergies between Parliament and the Executive.

And responding to a question from a Financial Times journalist, he blasted the former Jubilee vice chair David Murathe over his anti-Ruto rhetoric. “I have not responded to David Murathe in Kenya and I am not about to respond to him in Europe.”

“Whatever thing he is raising he is at liberty to raise those things. I am ready to respond to any allegation against my character or in anything I engage in.”

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