Kenya Parliament: From rubberstamp to transformative legislature
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Constitutions play crucial role as they are the long-term contracts between those ruled and the rulers that specify the conditions on which power is to be exercised. More importantly, legislatures are an institution of governance that plays a significant role when they perform their basic roles of oversight, representation and lawmaking. However, in many developing countries, legislatures are weak and ineffective, hence horizontal accountability is weakened. The onset of democratic governance in the 1990s witnessed the birth of new constitutions and changes in governance structures, and parliaments begun to exert their influence forcefully. This thesis, a case study, examines how the new constitutional revisions in Kenya have affected the position of Kenya Parliament, touted as one of the most independent and most autonomous in Africa. The Kenyan Parliament has not only become complex in its operations, it has also become extremely independent by playing its crucial role in a continuous system of check and balances. This thesis gives a background analysis of the dismantling of the independent constitution and the emasculation of powers by the Presidency. It shows the path the Kenyan legislature has taken, from an appendage legislature in the 1960s to an emerging legislature in the 1990s and finally to a transformative legislature it has transformed to-date. In the new paradigm shift, the thesis measures the strength of the Kenyan Parliament using the Fish and Kroenig Parliamentary Survey Index based on 32 items that measure four different indicators of parliamentary strength. This thesis compares in the process, two constitutions and how they fare on the Kenya parliament. With two constitutions, one based on a hybrid model (former constitution) and the other one based on a pure presidential model (new constitution), the power shift in governance is apparent. Based on the results of the survey, premised on the research question, the thesis has come to the conclusion that the new constitution has indeed strengthened Parliament immensely.