It has been said time and again that Parliament is a house of the people, where their interests and aspirations are tabled and considered through constructive debates. In Kenya, this fact of Parliament being the house of the commons is indelibly inscribed in our Constitution in the very first article. Since 50 million Kenyans cannot fit in the building along parliament road, the people’s sovereign power is delegated to their Members of Parliament in trust to represent them without fail.
Further, the same constitution, which in many ways is a people’s constitution, cushions Parliament from any undue influences by giving it powers that make it supreme. The supremacy of the Kenyan Parliament is first manifested in vesting all legislative powers to the August house and secondly, in the fact that Parliament exercises the sovereign power of the people. In addition, the constitution of Kenya has a very elaborate separation of powers. The executive, legislature and the judiciary are independent from each other. Each branch is endowed with distinct powers fashioned to serve as checks on the exercise of functions by the others in order to create a balance.
The checks and balances are created due to the realization that innately men can never be satisfied with power, they will eventually want more. Even usurp when possible. Uncontrollable power can only create a monster that serves its own interests at the expense of the people, since power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Kenya is currently at a point where the executive wants to usurp the power of all other arms of government. In the last few days we have seen the President and his Deputy directing their fury to Parliament, particularly their members of Parliament under the Kenya Kwanza Coalition. The executive demands Parliament to pass the Finance Bill 2023 as per their wishes without amending a single thing, even when majority of Kenyans have made known their clear opposition to most of the proposals contained in it. This is outrageous and flies in the face of separation of powers and the democratic ideals that we strive so hard to achieve. To do the executive’s bidding is to commit a disservice to the employer of any member of Parliament, the citizen.
On matters of public finance, the magnitude of powers granted by our constitution to Parliament on this matter is so substantial that its stance can override that of the executive. This is with a reason. Parliament takes charge in the collection of revenue, allocation of funds and finally oversight of the implementation of the collected and allocated funds. This ensures that there is fairness in collection and allocation of the funds. Attempts by the executive to influence Parliament’s decisions on fiscal matters is equivalent to disregarding the voice of the people. The executive’s dictatorial tendencies ought to be called out as the powers of legislation are vested in the August House alone.
The sentiments here do not undermine the role of the ruling party to mobilize its MPs towards passing their agenda in parliament. But this mobilization should not border or even cross over to dictatorship. The party ought to allow their members to strike a rational and healthy balance between their constituents’ priorities and the party’s agenda.
For Parliament to perform its role efficiently, its capacity to legislate ought to be independent of the executive’s will, selfish partisan interests, or any other interests that may arise - the interest of the people reigns supreme. The conversation on the Finance Bill, for instance, has evoked sharp, divergent views and the place to table, consider and harmonize them is Parliament. Any attempt to dilute this role is an attempt to compromise Kenya’s democratic ideals and is counterproductive to the any efforts by the government to gain public trust. When all is said and done, the measure of a functional democracy can be based on a well-developed and independent Parliament.
The current political climate is worrisome and reminiscent of an imperial presidency that was nothing short of detestable and characterized by human right violations. As a country we have come so far on this democratic journey and political patronage has no place. Members of Parliament are no longer dependent on the executive for their operation or even development in their constituencies.
The true employer of MPs is Mwananchi, therefore when it comes to voting on the Finance Bill 2023, let MPs not be cowed, their primary loyalty ought to be to Kenyans. To Kenyans, it is imperative that you have an idea of your representative’s position on the Bill and how they will eventually vote to hold them account, as you’re entitled to.
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