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Is Ruto now eyeing Prime Minister post?

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Is Deputy President William Ruto quietly shifting his position on the looming referendum?

Politicians and close allies have told the Star in multiple interviews the DP will from the New Year campaign for the creation of an executive Prime Minister position in the event of a referendum.

In this proposal, Ruto’s team will press also for a ceremonial President and his deputy and two deputy Prime Ministers.

In a parliamentary system, the leader of the party with the largest number of MPs becomes the PM. The party leader is typically elected by party delegates during party polls. The president is normally a ceremonial Head of State.

In the event a party does not get more than 50 per cent of MPs in order to form government, the party leader can cobble together a coalition of other like-minded parties to make a majority.

Ruto has been forced into a tactical shift, according to his confidants, because he believes the writing is on the wall and he can longer bank on President Kenyatta’s support in 2022.

Read: Ruto defends stand on referendum

 

His handlers believe a parliamentary system will end the fratricidal wars sparked off by presidential election results every five years which is politically untenable in a young democracy because of the “tyranny of numbers”. The presidential duel, his allies say, is politically and socially too polarising for a country which needs cohesion after years of ethnic mistrust.

Ethnic alliances between the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjins, Luo and Kamba traditionally determined who gets the job of President.

If Uhuru does not endorse his number two for the top job it will be a herculean task for Ruto to win the backing of either Luhya and or Kikuyu bloc to add to his Kalenjin base and therefore stand a chance of getting to State House.

“We are not taking chances. We will only back the referendum if it will create a pure parliamentary system of government. That way the Prime Minister who will be in-charge of the day to day running of government will be elected by Parliament,” said Majority Leader Aden Duale.

Two weeks ago, Duale told MPs that he and a group of politicians he chose not to name, but who are all believed to be pro-Ruto, will support the referendum if it creates a federal system of government or a parliamentary system.

Currently Kenya has presidential system where executive power is exercised by the president and in his absence his deputy.

Ruto’s team believes that the Presidency may be slipping out of their hands and the best bet would be to change the rules and then gun for an executive PM job.

“Ruto has many MPs in Parliament and is in control of the Senate as well. We believe he will continue to control the two institutions even after the next election. This will be our way to power if they insist on a referendum to share positions,” said jubilee whip Benjamin Washiali, a Ruto supporter.

On November 28, Ruto seemed to soften his stance when he said he will support enhancement of devolution if Kenyans resolve to go for a referendum. This was a radical departure from his earlier position in July when he would announce at every gathering that he was totally opposed to a referendum, even declaring at a church function in Kiambu that he had no time for a plebiscite as he had serious matters of state to deal with.

“I want to assure you that I will support any discussion on how to enhance devolution and increase its allocation, but not to create some positions at the top level alone,” said Ruto. But he would change in a matter of weeks.

He announced he was not opposed to a referendum to amend the Constitution, saying he has only given his opinion, which is his right, on some issues, just like the rest of Kenyans.

“I have a right to give my opinion on the proposed referendum just like any other Kenyan. In fact, I have no problem with presidential or parliamentary system of governance so long as Kenyans decide,” said Ruto.

Read: Ruto opposes merger of counties, says decentralised system stays

Responding to Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) who vowed to oppose any move to interfere with devolution in case of a referendum, Ruto said he would back amendments that empower counties.

Ruto was addressing MCAs from Kakamega, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo Counties who called on him at his Sugoi home, Uasin Gishu County on Friday.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said yesterday that Ruto and his supporters will launch their constitutional demands soon.

“We are not stupid. We know that those opposed to the DP are scheming day and night against him. We will shock them with our demands,” said Cherargei.

Yesterday Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o said it was not surprising that the DP would now make a U-turn and push for a parliamentary system, which he surrendered to PNU in 2010 when he was then the ODM team leader during the Naivasha constitutional talks.

“He is simply rekindling the demand for the parliamentary system that has always been there in the agenda of the Second Liberation. It had been achieved in the Bomas Draft Constitution, but was mutilated in Kilifi before the referendum of 2005. It was smuggled out of the 2010 draft through the Naivasha ‘deal’ which was negotiated by Ruto,” Nyong’o told the Star yesterday.

After they won elections in 2013, Uhuru and Ruto told thrilled supporters they had a deal that would take the party to 2027.

The plan then was for Uhuru to serve his two five-year term and back Ruto to take over for another 10 years.

The plans seem to have been ruined by Kenyatta’s decision to reach a truce with ODM leader Raila Odinga. Ruto’s reluctant embrace of the handshake and the open rebellion of pro-Ruto MPs have hardened positions in Jubilee.

Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe has last week told Ruto to retire in 2022 “because he has served his 10 years with Uhuru”.

“Jubilee has no presidential candidate,” declared Murathe on December 26 during the Maragoli cultural festival in Vihiga last week.

His remarks followed his much-publicised meeting with ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi in November that sparked speculation that Murathe and by extension President Kenyatta was reaching out to Mudavadi with a view to making him a presidential candidate for Mt Kenya.

Some Mt Kenya politicians have also campaigned for law change so Kenyatta can land the job when his constitutional term ends in 2022.

Read: DP Ruto should retire in 2022 – Murathe

The new Constitution was originally intended to create a parliamentary system, but MPs switched to a presidential system in the Naivasha talks in 2010 after then ODM team led by Ruto cut a back room deal with PNU at the expense of their party position.

Many liberal democracies such as Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, and New Zealand use the parliamentary system.

The presidential system is used in democracies like the United States and France.

Ruto’s team, according to sources, will also be pushing for Cabinet Secretaries to be picked from elected politicians, a departure from now where ministers are technocrats.

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