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 : firstname.lastname@example.org)