The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission could, in the future, be forced to discard the use of population in delaminating boundaries if a proposed legislation currently before Parliament is passed.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2023 wants the electoral commission to be compelled to use other non-population criteria considerations in reviewing boundaries.
This, the sponsor of the Bill, Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri argues, will align with what he believes are the principles of fair representation and equality of vote.
Kiunjuri argues that the current provisions and criteria that IEBC uses to delineate boundaries undermine the principles and the requirements for universal suffrage based on the aspiration for fair representation and equality of the vote.
As a result, the MP wants Parliament to approve a raft of amendments that, if passed by the House, could help to resolve population inequalities within constituencies.
“The formula used to develop 290 constituencies did not consider population shifts. All parameters are being affected today. We have more cities right now than when the Constitution was promulgated when there was only one city.
“In all democracies, the primary consideration is population. Kenya is developing, and as the population shifts, we must consider how to delineate the constituencies. Issues of fair representation cannot be discussed without issues of fair opportunities,” the MP argues.
Kiunjuri, who also doubles up as the Service Party leader, said that if effected, the changes in his proposed Bill would help cure inequalities and further protect the fundamental right to representation as guaranteed in the constitution of Kenya.
‘’Current electoral inequalities cannot be resolved within a single-member constituency system like ours. An electoral system like ours cannot resolve inter-county differences in constituency sizes. That is only based on territorial constituencies.
“In urban areas, one could end up with unreasonably small constituencies – a few high-rise apartments while in rural areas, the size of constituencies would make representation impossible,” said Kiunjuri.
He further argues that fundamental to realizing the principle of equal representation and resolving inequalities in constituency sizes in Kenya is the recognition that the equal opportunity to cast a can mean very little if the strength of that vote is not equal.
As such, the MP adds that critical to fair constituency boundary is the fact that even though the Constitution permits other factors such as geography, economics, urban-rural conflict, and other non-legal factors – to be considered in the drawing of constituency boundaries, these other factors are weighting factors.
The proposed legislation is under scrutiny by the National Assembly departmental committee of Justice and Legal Affairs.
The committee chaired by Tharaka MP George Murugara has already held meeting with representatives from IEBC, Electoral Law and Governance Institute for Africa (ELGIA), the Registrar of Political Parties, and representatives from different civil society groups to review and finalize the proposed legislation.