Kenya

Kenya MPs recommend scrapping prime minister's post

28 Jan 2010 23:38:50 GMT

* Parliament to have more power to check executive

* MPs agree on two-tier system of government

By Antony Gitonga

NAIVASHA, Kenya, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Kenyan legislators have agreed to recommend scrapping the position of prime minister which was created in 2008 under a deal to end ethnic and political violence triggered by a disputed presidential election.

A committee of legislators discussing a new draft constitution ironed out a series of contentious issues after lengthy negotiations, the committee's chairman said on Thursday.

"We want to report that after nine days of deliberations, we have reached major agreements on the draft on the issues that appeared to have divided us," the chairman, Mohamed Abdikadir, said in the Rift Valley town of Naivasha.

At least 1,300 people died and more than 300,000 were uprooted in the violence that followed the 2007 election between President Mwai Kibaki and then opposition candidate Raila Odinga. Under the political settlement Odinga took the new post of prime minister.

The committee will hand its recommendations on Friday to a Committee of Experts which drew up the new constitution. The experts will then present the draft to parliament and later to Kenyans in a referendum in June.

One of the issues the two sides of government -- allied respectively to Kibaki and Odinga -- had argued over was whether to have a president or prime minister as the leading political position.

Abdikadir said the group had reached consensus that a presidential system, checked by a more powerful parliament, was best. "The president will serve not more that two terms of five years and he will not be an MP," he told reporters.

Another bone of contention had been devolution of government to yet-to-be-created regional counties.

Abdikadir said the legislators agreed on a two-tier system of government with a senate comprising 47 representatives from the counties. "One person shall be elected per county to the Senate through universal suffrage by the counties," he said.

Kenyans have been calling for a new constitution since the early 1990s to replace one dating back to the eve of independence from Britain in 1963.

Critics say the existing constitution encourages corruption and tribalism because of the president's immense powers.

The last attempt to pass a new constitution failed in 2005 when Kenyans rejected a government-backed draft in a referendum. (Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; editing by David Stamp)

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