Kenyan President’s Plan to Reshape State Gets Senate Backing

Kenya’s Senate joined the National Assembly in backing a plan to restructure the government to make it more inclusive and help avoid power struggles that have turned violent at past elections.

Senators approved the constitutional amendment bill on Tuesday, with 51 voting in favor, 12 rejecting it and one abstaining during a televised session in the capital, Nairobi.

The proposals include the reintroduction of the role of prime minister and two deputies, and the creation of the position of the head of the opposition. President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga have said the changes will provide greater political representation and end winner-takes-all elections.

The legislation will be put to a referendum that’s expected to take place before a general election scheduled for next year. Still, holding the plebiscite depends on the outcome of a court ruling on Thursday following petitions challenging some of the proposed constitutional changes.

Some planned reforms such as expanding the president’s powers to include the appointment of an ombudsman for the judiciary may erode the institution’s independence, said Kipchumba Murkomen, a senator who voted against the bill. Increasing the weighting of population in the revenue allocation formula for counties could see regions with fewer people lag behind in development, Millicent Omanga, another senator who rejected the bill, said.

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