At an unguarded moment recently Justice Minister Martha Karua let it slip that new constituencies "are a must". The clear implication was unlike the minimum reforms being pushed for by the opposition, the Kibaki administration is keen, nay desperate to have the number of MPs increased.
And true to her word, that bill has already been published and is now awaiting debate.
The big question is why is the Kibaki administration so keen on new constituencies just now and why is it so urgent?
If truth be told it would be impossible to fail to link the current campaign to part of the strategy for the re-election for Mwai Kibaki. The idea will obviously be to make the road to re-election that much easier for the incumbent and to also give him more clout in parliament in 2008. And 40 new seats are not few. That is going to be a substantial vote, even in the proposed greatly increased in size 10th parliament.
Although the opposition have vowed to oppose the bill, chances are high it will sail through without too much trouble. There are two reasons for this.
Firstly most MPS in the constituencies that have been earmarked for splitting will want to support the bill because it will decrease competition on the ground and make it easy for them to continue drawing a salary after 2007 of Kshs 850,000 plus benefits for doing very little and in some cases absolutely nothing because many members hardly attend sessions in parliament.
Secondly the government has cleverly sugar-coated the bill with the provision of 50 new seats for nominated women who will specifically be women. As I have often said here, the Kenyan parliament badly needs more representation by women. So the idea will be that anybody seen to be opposing the bill will be seen to opposing more women representation.
Having said that, it is important to note that this is the wrong time for a review of constituency boundaries. The best time would be when a new administration is just beginning its' new term to prevent the inevitable of this being used as a campaign weapon and strategy to the great disadvantage of the Kenyan people.
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