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February 26, 2013

Understanding Kenya's New Ballot Choices

Kenyans who go to the polls on March 4 will be voting for six different positions, more than in any previous election.
 
Under the new constitution, government operates at two levels – national and county. Voters will be electing the members of the executive and legislative (parliamentary) arms at both levels of government.
 
According to the head of the constitution writing team, Ekuru Aukot, the point of this “devolution” of government was to correct the wrongs left over from years of colonial rule and the legacy of former Kenyan leaders who consolidated power in the central government and in their own tribes. He says one of the concepts of devolution is “that level of inclusiveness, making every part of Kenya relevant to the governance of the country.”
 
Additional constitutional changes impacting this election:

- The president and cabinet members cannot also serve as members of parliament, as part of the separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judiciary arms of government.

- The National Parliament is split into two houses, the Senate and the National Assembly.
 
The six positions up for election are:

President
National level, executive
 
The president serves as head of state and government, and is the commander-in-chief of the Kenya Defence Forces and chairperson of the National Security Council. The president nominates and appoints cabinet members and oversees government ministries and departments.

National Assembly Representative
National level, legislative 
 
The National Assembly is responsible for making national laws and allocating national revenue between the levels of government. Voters will choose 290 representatives, representing each of the country’s constituencies.
 
In addition to the elected positions, the National Assembly has 12 seats dedicated to represent special interests, which will be nominated by the parties in proportion to the number of seats won in the election. The assembly members will also elect one speaker.

Women Representative
National level, legislative
 
In addition to the constituency representatives and special interest seats, 47 women will be elected to the National Assembly as women representatives – one women representative for each county. Only women may stand for these positions.

Senator
National level, legislative
 
The Senate is the other of the two houses making up the National Parliament, and represents the counties.  It is responsible for making laws for the county government and allocating national revenue among counties.
 
Voters will elect 47 senators – one for each county. 
 
In addition to the elected positions, the Senate will have 16 women members, decided through party nominations in proportion to the number of seats won in the election, 2 members representing youth, 2 members representing persons with disabilities, and a speaker elected by the members.

County Governor
County level, executive
 
The governor heads the executive at the county level and oversees county administration and departments.

County Assembly Ward Representative
County level, legislative
 
The County Assembly makes laws for the county, and each ward elects one person to represent them in the assembly.

Additional members of the County Assembly are nominated by political parties in proportion to the number of seats won in the election.