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Economy

MPs set to debate Referendum Bill in law change drive

Jeremiah Kioni
Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee chairperson Jeremiah Kioni. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Efforts to change the 10-year old Constitution is set to hit the homestretch this afternoon with the tabling of the Referendum Bill 2020.

The Bill set for first reading seeks to provide legal framework of the changes, spelling out the procedure, conduct of the actual referendum, and amendments to the Elections Act 2011, which currently provide for the conduct of a referendum.

Article 257 (1) of the Constitution says an amendment may be proposed by a popular initiative in the form of a general suggestion, or a formulated draft Bill signed by at least one million registered voters.

The proposed referendum law does not give a timeframe within which Parliament must consider the Bill, leaving it to the discretion of the House Business Committee, the top decision-making organ, to slot it in House business.

The Bill, sponsored by Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee chairperson Jeremiah Kioni, if enacted into law, will regulate the procedure to amend the Constitution by popular initiative.

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“The Bill provides for detailed provisions regulating the procedure under popular initiative…it provides for initiation of a referendum, notice of holding referendum, referendum committees, costs of referendum committee, procedure for conduct of referendum, voting threshold, and general powers of the commission,” says Mr Kioni in the Bills memorandum of objects and reasons.

In his Madaraka Day address to the nation, President Uhuru Kenyatta said yesterday the change of the Constitution would end the cycle of post-election violence.

The Bill gives MPs the upper hand in determining the final changes on any proposed amendments to the Constitution before a referendum.

The Referendum Bill 2020 provides a road map on amending the Constitution, amid expectations that Kenya will eventually make fundamental changes on structure of the Executive given the pending publication of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.

The Ndaragwa MP-led committee requires the Bill to go through popular initiative but MPs will have a free hand to make any changes. The Bill also provides a 14-day time frame within which county assemblies must forward their decisions on a popular initiative draft Bill to Parliament for approval.

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