By Mzalendo contributor – Moreen Majiwa (@mmajiwa)
On 10th November 2010 the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission’s proposal for the distribution of the 80 new constituencies was leaked. Since then a hornet’s nest has been stirred up. The Commission’s proposal on the boundaries of the 80 new constituencies has drawn fire from MPs as well as from within the Commission itself. On Saturday 13th November 2010 the Commission was asked by Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to explain how they arrived at the yet to be gazetted constituencies. Yesterday, 16th November 2010, two MPs successfully applied for an injunction blocking the gazettement of the new constituencies.
The delineation of constituencies is a controversial and potentially inflammatory issue. As the constituencies determine not only electoral blocks, but also the allocation and distribution of state resources. According to the Standard, 11th November 2010, the distribution of the new constituencies is – Rift Valley will have 26 new constituencies bring the total constituencies in the Rift Valley to 76. Nairobi, Nyanza and Western Province each will get 9 new constituencies and will have a total of 17, 33, 41 constituencies respectively. Eastern Province will have 7 new constituencies, creating a total 43 constituencies in the Province. North Eastern will get 6 new constituencies and a total of 17. Finally Coast and Central will both get 4 new constituencies bringing their total, 29 and 33 constituencies respectively.
Why are more constituencies being created, many would argue that there are already too many? Article 97 (1) of the new of the constitution provides for 290 elected seats in the next National Assembly to be elected in 2012. There are currently only 210, and herein lies the impetus for the creation for an extra 80 constituencies. The creation of these extra constituencies is provided for by Article 89 (1) of the constitution that states that there shall be two hundred and ninety constituencies for the purposes of the next parliamentary elections.
So is the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission mandated to form new constituencies? The mandate of Commission is described in the old constitution under which it was created. Its mandate is to make recommendations to parliament on the delimitation of constituencies and local authority electoral units on the basis of equality of votes; to making recommendations to parliament on administrative boundaries including fixing, reviewing and variation of districts and other boundaries, as well as other roles as determined by Parliament.
The new constitution seems to broaden the role of the Commission, though Article 27 (1) of the Sixth Schedule of the new constitution clearly states that the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission shall continue to function as constituted under the old constitution and prohibits the Commission from determining the boundaries of the counties (Schedule 6, Article 27.1.a). The constitution clearly states that the Commission ‘shall determine the boundaries of constituencies and wards using the criteria mentioned in this Constitution’ (Schedule 6, Article 27.1.b) only stating that its review of boundaries should not result in the loss of already existing constituencies (Schedule 6, Article 27.4).
The criteria by which the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission arrived at their determination of the proposed 80 new constituencies should be measured against the formula provided in Article 89 (5) and (6) of the new constitution. Article 89 (5) and (6) provide that the boundaries of each constituency should be such that the number of inhabitants each constituency nearly equal in number. Though the articles provide for variance in population distribution because of geographical factors etc, the constitution limits how much the variance can be from constituency to constituency i.e. not more than 40% between cities and sparsely populated areas and not more than 30% for other areas.
Given that the creation new of constituencies is allowed by the constitution and further that Commission is mandated to determine the boundaries of new the constituencies. The question that remains is whether the criteria to determine the new constituencies is aligned with the new constitution.
So let the report be released / gazetted so that we the public can have a better understanding of whether the criteria has been met or not.