Members of parliament working on a new draft constitution for Kenya have agreed to abolish the position of prime minister in favour of an executive president checked by a strengthened parliament and judiciary.

The prime ministerial post, currently held by Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement, was introduced in early 2008 as part of efforts to break the political deadlock that resulted from the disputed presidential elections in December 2007. However many observers and ordinary Kenyans consider the new system to be unworkable due to ambiguities over the respective prerogatives of the prime minister and president.

The joint parliamentary committee representing all political parties that is responsible for revising a draft prepared last year by a committee of experts has also recommended devolving certain powers to the regional level and creating a second house of parliament, or senate, to allow the regional powers to participate in the national legislative process. Under the revised draft the president will also no longer be able to appoint judges and MPs appointed as government ministers will not be allowed to continue to sit in parliament.

The revised draft must now come before parliament for approval before being put to the country in a referendum.

Kenyans have been pushing for constitutional reform since the 1990s, although all earlier efforts have failed. Now the pressure is on as parties seek to avoid a repeat of the violence that followed the December 2007 elections, which left over 1,500 people dead and 300,000 displaced from their homes.

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