Is
the
proposed
new
constitution
mathematically
sound?
By MUNGAI KIHANYA
The Sunday Nation
Nairobi,
18 September 2005
Section 116(2) of the proposed new constitution
provides that the number of nominated members of parliament shall
consist of:
“(a) A number of members equal to five per cent of
the total membership of parliament who shall be persons with
disabilities…of whom one third shall be women; (b) A number of members
equal to five per cent of the total membership of parliament who
shall…represent special interests…and; (c) Such number of members as may
be required to ensure that not more than twothirds of all members of
parliament are of the same gender.”
These provisions sound straightforward but they are
no easy to implement. Suppose there are 200 elected members of
parliament. How many nominees would be appointed under section 116
(2)(a) and (b)? It is tempting to argue that five per cent of 200 is 10,
therefore there should be 20 nominated MPs.
But let’s now check if the new constitution is obeyed
by these figures. From the above calculation, the total number of
members comes to 220 (200 elected plus 20 nominated); five per cent of
220 is 11. That is, in a house of 220 MPs, 22 should be nominated and
198 elected. Therefore the
earlier computation was wrong. Let’s try another approach:
The new constitution requires a total of ten per cent
be nominated under subsections (a) and (b). Therefore, the 200 elected
members should comprise 90 per cent of the house. If 200 MPs make this
90 per cent, what then should the total membership be? The answer is 200
divided by 90 per cent, which is equal to 222.2. That is, we need 22.2
nominees, (OK, 22!) – 11 under each category.
But then subsection 2(c) introduces a further
complication: Its aim is to ensure that there is a gender “balance” in
the house. Suppose that out of the 200 elected MPs, 180 are men and only
20 are women. How many women would need to be nominated to satisfy
article 2(c)?
The 180 men will make up twothirds of the house,
therefore the total membership will be 180 multiplied by three halves.
The answer is 270. Hence there should be a total of 90 women (270  180)
in the house. But since there are already 20 elected female members,
then only 70 new ones should be nominated.
And now here comes the snag: in order to obey
subsections 2(a) and 2(b), a total of 30 MPs (ten per cent of total
membership) must be appointed in addition to the 270. Out of the 30,
five must be women because of the special requirement in article 2(a).
If the remaining 25 are all men (a realistic expectation in Kenya), the
gender distribution will be as follows:
205 men – 180 elected plus 25 nominated. 95 women –
20 elected and 75 nominated. The total number is therefore 300. One
third of 300 is 100, that is, there should be 100 female MPs  not 95.
Consequently, the gender balancing rule is broken.
How do we solve this hitch? Well, that is a story for
another day. For now it appears that the proposed new constitution is
mathematically tricky.
