Compare and contrast executive legislature relations

Categories: Compare And Contrast


The arguments of the merits and demerits of single party and multiparty especially within the African continent have been going on since before all African countries were independent and choosing one system over another have been rooted in our history as a continent and the degree of hold the former colonial master have on the country. It was natural for newly formed African states to move to the multiparty system by the standard of the West because that was the first system exposed to as new states but as the evolution into self governance continued, many states moved into the single party system and for most it was through elitist trying to secure their position and granting each other favors to assist with government running while the other side of the single party coin had individuals trying to pool resources so that they can bring their individual communities out of poverty and prove a point to the west CITATION Jon98 l 2057 (Kaunda, 1998).

The paper seeks to look at the journey of Kenya in this and will compare and contrast the relationship of the Legislature (Law making arm of the government) and the Executive (in this case the presidency) in both eras.

Single party system is a form of arrangement where a single dominant party supplants all electoral affairs thereby restricting the capacity of other political parties to engage. From the historical perspective, African one-party systems were more prominent between the late 60s and early 70s with an approximate four-fifths of the continent under authoritarian/ military regimes or dictatorships.

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Within Africa, two categories of single-party systems emerged namely de jure and de facto one-party states. States became de jure single-party states by the virtue of changing their constitutions thus outlawing other parties. While multi-party systems are those where there is competition for power between more than two parties, thereby limiting the likelihood of single-party governments while at the same time presenting a chance of forming coalitions.


Kenya as a single party state (1969-1991)Kenya was a British colony that attained independence in 1963. A year later, Jommo Kenyatta’s party the Kenya African National Union (KANU) merged with the main opposition party of the day to form a single party that would run government. In 1964 when Kenya became a Republic, Kenyatta led the legislature into creating the position of the president with substantial executive powers. Just like many newly independent African nations, it was assumed that adopting the one party state framework would ensure cohesiveness and unity especially because of the multi ethnic nature of many African countries CITATION Jen92 l 2057 (Widner, 1992). Under the leadership of the first president of Kenya, Jommo Kenyatta, KANU remained some sort of a party run by a group of elite close knit politicians.

At that time, there was some considerable freedom for debate and criticism even within the party itself. For instance Kenya remained a de facto single party state up to the year 1982. During this time, a system of open party primaries which allowed aspirant candidate to participate was maintained. This allowed some level of competition within the party which also made it easy for KANU to win the general elections. However the freedom stared to deteriorate over the years as the party started to crystallizes into a de jure single party authoritarian (Widner, 1992).

When Daniel Moi ascended to power, KANU and its leadership continued to curtail the freedom of the citizens especially those that came from smaller tribes. In order to deal with the marginalization, the smaller tribes sought other forms of political expression through the formation of welfare societies. In 1980 these welfare societies were banned and KANU became a de jure single party system in 1982 following a failed coup by the Kenya Air force CITATION Ojw86 l 2057 (Ojwang, 1986). All ethnic and regional welfares societies were disbanded due to the fact that they acted as catalysts for political candidates. Even within KANU itself factions and disciplinary wings were created so as to punish those who went against the president’s command.

Kenya as a Multiparty State (1992-2002)During the 1990s, a wave of democratization swept across the African continent. The wave took many different shapes and forms, and sometimes (as in the case of Kenya) international pressure was pivotal in bringing about change. In November 1991, Western donors acting through the World Bank halted foreign aid while demanding government reform. Previous to 1991, the Moi government had since 1986 faced mounting criticism from Kenyan church groups, and there had also been a series of riots throughout the country in July 1990.

Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) was formed in May 1991 by six opposition leaders, including Oginga Odinga (former vice-president 1964-66), and FORD was later officially announced in July 1991 and subsequently declared illegal by the Moi government. Several members of FORD were arrested in November 1991 prior to a pro-democracy rally, which despite having been banned by the government took place. The arrests caused the international community to react strongly with outrage and, more importantly, withdrawing of financial funds. On 26th November 1991 the West discontinued bilateral aid to Kenya.

These events later led to the legalization of opposition parties in December 1991 through the repeal of section 2A of the Kenyan constitution. In a way this enabled Moi and KANU to control the legislative process by having seized the initiative for reform towards a multi-party system. Primarily because of international pressure, but due to domestic pressure as well, president Moi agreed to reform the party system. A reform that would end the monopoly on political power that his party, KANU, held but also reforms that would address Kenya’s record on human rights that had come under international scrutiny and increasing criticism. Furthermore, in December 1991, former vice-president Mwai Kibaki, then minister of health, resigned and founded the Democratic Party (DP) CITATION Chr00 l 2057 (Nystrom, 2000).

During the first half of 1992, around 2000 people were killed in tribal clashes in Western Kenya. Consequently, the government put a ban on political rallies, a ban that was later lifted after protests organized by FORD. In December 1992 both presidential and parliamentary elections were held, but because of the oppositions’ lack of cohesiveness and inability to form an alliance against KANU, Moi and KANU were able to remain in control. However, it is contested how free and fair these elections really were, and to what extent Moi and his political machine used their incumbent status to control the results.


In order to determine whether a particular political framework is good or bad for governance one needs to first of all determine the criteria for such. Monyani (2018) argues that there are three important factors that determine such and they include; political stability, economic development and nation building. Most importantly there is need to allow some level of freedom and healthy political competition within whatever political framework is adopted. At the end of the day it all boils down to the essence of governance which is all about the structures and processes designed to ensure accountability, transparency, rule of law, equity and inclusiveness, empowerment an broad based participation.

Neither the one party system nor the multiparty system in its entirety achieved the utopian democracy success for the country. In this section we will focus mainly on the similarities and differences of the two systems in the relation to the interaction of the legislature and the executive and return for the development of good governance.

First, legislative control of executive power in a one – party state (de jure or de facto), represents a wholly unorthodox picture and must be under- stood in that light. The one-party parliament lacks the basic equipment with its constraints and sanctions, for effectively calling the executive to account for its policies, acts or exercises of power. Owing to the monolithic character of such a parliament, there is no active unit within its make-up, with the motivation, initiative, even capacity, to take exception to the government line, let alone articulate such a difference as a policy matter and dress it up in efficacious sanctions CITATION Ojw86 l 2057 (Ojwang, 1986). In Kenya’s case the unchecked power of the executive led to the rise of authoritarianism, rise in corruption and disregard for merit and loyalty was rewarded. While in a multiparty system not only the legislature holds the government accountable but also the official opposition and in turn creating a more independent third arm of government.

Secondly, the discord or toothless legislature in a single party system becomes a recipe of separatist tendencies especially among the smaller tribes as was the case in Kenya that sought to express themselves through welfare societies. This was in a bid to fill the gap of having no adequate representation in government. This degenerated into some sought of post-colonial struggle which was catalyzed by the polarization of the periphery and most importantly the link between economic rewards and political power CITATION Ojw86 l 2057 (Ojwang, 1986). Nation building cannot be achieved where the freedom of members of the Legislature, interest groups, local authorities and other avenues of popular participation, the media and the bureaucrats is curtailed. Surveillance and the use of Watch dogs during the one party system era in Kenya led to fear and thus no real political competition and debate even within the party itself was allowed. While a multiparty system like one formed in 1992 was focused on the balanced power and the idea of power sharing and not specific ethnic groups clinging to power.

Third and more importantly, the government line represents the party line, from which the parliamentarian (who must be a member of the party) deviates at this own peril, as he may suffer revocation of his registration as a party member, with the automatic consequence of loss of the parliamentary seat. Besides, the vote of no confidence, the traditional parliamentary weapon, becomes impossible to employ in so far as no dissenting opinion, supported by an identifiable group of parliamentarians possessed of a determinative vote, can be articulated and given effect. This leads often to a parliament composition of puppets in fear of not being able to check one another and the executive. Single party systems have no room for the impeachment of the executive. In a multiparty system this has managed to keep the executive in check as it calls upon the electorate as an arbiter CITATION Jon98 l 2057 (Kaunda, 1998).

Finally the main contrast when it comes to the relation between the two arms of government in the two systems is that the executive is not bound by the split vote in parliament where they are required to make a decision pending a certain number of votes. They are independent of that and are only bound by the consequences of their decision. In some bizarre way it eases decision making.


single party system in some areas of the world have had good impact in economic growth and has reflected in their social development, what has been termed as benevolent dictatorship that is why it is highlighted that how this rule happens is dependent on the leader and their personality but if forms of checks and balances are not maintained in any system, the rise of authoritarianism that is marked with dissent are very real.


  • l 2057 Immigration and Refugee Board:Canada. (1992, March 1). Restoration of Multiparty Government and Kenyans of Somali origins. Retrieved July 26, 2019, from UNHCR:
  • Kaunda, J. M. (1998). Transition to a multiparty system and consolidation. (R. Editore, Ed.) Il Politico , 63 (3), 425-448.
  • Monyani, M. (2018, May 25). One party state: Is it good or bad for governance. Retrieved July 26, 2019, from E-International Relations:
  • Nystrom, C. (2000, August 31). Party politics in Kenya:1963-2000. Retrieved July 25, 2019, from Janda:
  • Ojwang, J. (1986). Legislative Control of Executive Power in Africa:New Insights. Verfassung und Recht in Ubersee/Law and Politics in Africa, Asia and Latin America , 19 (4), 421-435.
  • Widner, J. (1992). The Rise of a Party State in Kenya: From Harambee to Nyayo. Berkley: University of California.

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