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What it takes to change presidential term limit in Kenya

The internet was left in a frenzy on Tuesday after a UDA lawmaker revealed plans seeking to scrap the presidential term limit o that cap be based on age and not period of service.

Fafi MP Salah Yakub claims some UDA lawmakers are working on a constitutional amendment Bill to replace the two-term limit with an age limit of 75 years.

The said changes will give President William Ruto the leeway to head the Kenyan government for 20 years, through four terms.

Aged 55, Ruto would be eligible to contest in 2027, 2032 and 2037 elections if the MPs have their way.

While President Ruto has not indicated any intention to change the terms of his office, Kenyans have wondered what the process would entail.

Plebiscite

Presidential term limit can only be changed through a plebiscite, hence a popular initiative and not parliamentary.

It will involve the repeal of the Kenyan Constitution.

The two-term limit came into effect ahead of the 1992 elections following the repeal of section 2A of the old constitution. The 2010 Constitution maintained the presidential term limit.

According to Article 142 of the Constitution, the President shall hold office for a term beginning on the date on which the President is sworn in, and ending when the person next elected President is sworn in.

The article goes ahead to state that a person shall not hold office as president for more than two terms.

A proposal of such magnitude, however, would require the proposer to marshal a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament, as well as a simple majority of Kenyans in a referendum.

According to Chapter 16 of the Kenyan Constitution, an amendment to the Constitution may be proposed by a popular initiative signed by at least one million registered voters.

The popular initiative for an amendment may be in the form of a general suggestion or a formulated draft Bill.

If a popular initiative is in the form of a general suggestion, the promoters of that popular initiative, in this case, UDA MPs,  shall formulate it into a draft Bill.

The MPs will have to deliver the draft Bill and the supporting signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which shall verify that the initiative is supported by at least one million registered voters.

If the IEBC is satisfied that the initiative meets the requirements of the constitution, the Commission shall submit the draft Bill to each county assembly for consideration within three months after the date it was submitted by the Commission.

If a county assembly approves the draft Bill, the speaker of the county assembly shall deliver a copy of the draft Bill jointly to the Speakers of the two Houses of Parliament, with a certificate that the county assembly has approved it.

The draft Bill if approved by a majority of the county assemblies, shall be introduced in Parliament without delay.

It will then be passed if supported by a majority of the members of each House.

If Parliament passes the Bill, it shall be submitted to the President for assent in accordance with Articles 256 (4) and (5).

If either House of Parliament fails to pass the Bill, or the Bill relates to a matter mentioned in 255 (1), the proposed amendment shall be submitted to the people in a referendum.

Even so, the timing of such a proposal, coming only three months after a hotly contested presidential election, could raise political temperatures.

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