Parties should watch out lest they become irrelevant

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By JOSEPH KAMOTHO

The recent victory of a steadily rising political entity in two out of three by-elections in Nairobi and Kiambu Counties is nothing short of  a warning  shot at  despots  and  intolerant party  leadership in Kenya. Narc Kenya trounced coalition partners’ favoured candidates in Makadara and Juja constituencies where the parties once boasted massive support. The party is led by a no-nonsense Gichugu parliamentarian, Martha Karua and a former Cabinet minister.

The constituents were not amused that election petitioners and one time parliamentarians, Reuben Ndolo, Maina Kamanda and former Government Chief Whip George Thuo were exempted from the nomination process to contest the by-elections. The   Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and the Party of National Unity (PNU) paid a price for recycling friends, rewarding loyalties and sycophancy that has become so fashionable in all the registered parties in the country.   It was sweet revenge against the chest thumping party barons who had to consume the doses of their own prescription in these contests they were sure of winning.

There are lessons to learn from these elections and others before. It is gradually emerging that the popularity of major parties is on the wane as is the charisma of individual leaders in those entities. Some aspirants may soon abandon parties before the 2012 contest to vie for elections as independents as provided for under the new Constitution. One is  yet  to  vie  for a  seat  as an independent  candidate under the  just  promulgated  supreme law that  has  since  rubbed  the political elite the wrong way.

The   shock defeat compels lackluster   leaders to go back to the drawing board to redeem their image otherwise it is time to kiss leadership goodbye and wind up those parties before 2012 general elections. Dictatorship within political entities is unbearable.

Nominations for elections favour the privileged and economic heavyweights. Elections are never held and returns are not regularly filed   with the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties. For some time, the electorate had no choice but to elect handpicked friends, relatives and sycophants of the political ruling class.

The   parties  founded 18 years  ago ostensibly to  reform the political  landscape allegedly  ruined  by autocratic  rule  of the  former  ruling party, KANU, are not  any better if not worse. In one way or other, parties have violated their constitutions and the supreme law with unparalleled impunity.

The findings of the retired South African Judge Johann Kriegler’s Commission that investigated the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) merely confirmed the electoral fraud most Kenyans endure. ECK is no more. It was disbanded for bungling the 2007 general elections whose premature presidential election tallies prompted violence that claimed over 1,000 lives and heavy losses.

The Committee of Experts on  Constitutional Review (CoE) like  the  Kriegler Commission  and  other Agenda  4 Commissions   could not  stomach  any of the  nuisance  by these entities and cracked a  whip. State Officers that had  abused their  offices  will no longer hold   party  posts  and allow  aspirants  to  run for  elections  as independents in the new political dispensation.

Deviation from tradition is a sigh of relief to many fatigued party members notably those who have been restrained from exercising their constitutional rights. One thing  is clear:   with  the  implementation of the  new  Constitution,  the political  leadership  whose role  as a hand picker will be  neutralised  and rewarding  loyalties  and sycophancy  could soon become a thing of the  past – thanks  to the   CoE.

(The writer is a former cabinet minister and national leader of two major  political parties. Email : [email protected])

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