BY JOSEPH KAMOTHO
The new Kenya constitution promulgated eight months ago bans State Officers who include Members of Parliament from holding political party posts but none of these legislators are ready to quit the positions that had given them blanket authority to select cronies, friends and relatives as candidates for elections.
Yesteryear reformists and critics of the then ruling party, Kenya African National Union (KANU) founded briefcase parties in which they perpetuate selection rather than competitive primaries for eventual nomination. These new parties are KANU replicas.
For instance, internal democracy is lacking, elections are never held, critics are locked out of contests nominations and parties run as personal properties since the country reverted to a multi-party system in 1991.
It is unthinkable in the circumstances that parliamentarians and councillors can preside over meetings to evaluate their performance that in future could result in a vote recall.
It is in view of the foregoing that the Committee of Experts on the Constitution (CoE) came up with radical proposals in which leaders are held accountable.
Party members and the electorate have suffered unspeakable injustices at the hands of holier than thou leaders. The letter and spirit of the constitution and the Political Parties Act promise to tame political nomads and last minute reject defectors whose shuttling amongst parties have ruined parties\’ image.
Leaders who were in the habit of presiding over nominations and hand picking candidates for the electorate are in for a rude shock.
Aspirants will have no option but to abandon such entities and run as independents under the new law. The days of party dictatorship are numbered and could soon be history.
Split loyalties afflict almost all registered political parties but the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) is the latest casualty of open defiance and political infidelity.
One of the deputy party leaders, William Ruto is leading a rebellion to unseat the party leader and Prime Minister, Raila Odinga. ODM rebels campaign against party candidates attend and convene rallies in which Raila is the subject of attack.
The ODM renegades threatened to quit parliamentary seats midway and offer themselves for re-election. Under the new law, the rebels can only seek re-election as independent because they can only stand for elections later in the year as independent or new party nominees.
Dual membership is illegal and candidates cannot be nominated by more than on party to contest an election. The civic and parliamentary seats belong to parties and not individuals as is the case in Kenya today.
Raila is the only parliamentarian in recent times to resign and sought a fresh mandate on National Development Party (NDP) ticket that later merged with KANU in a short-lived marriage that ended the latter\’s stranglehold on to power.
It emerges that most leaders across the divide never join parties out of ideological conviction or belief but used them as election conveyor belts.
That explains why parties are weak. As a result, there are as many freelance legislators in the House today as there are lip service party supporters. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable even in some of the liberal democracies.
Freelance political practitioners are lucky that neither the Speaker nor the sponsoring parties can discipline them for any wrongdoing because of glaring weaknesses in the enforcement of the Act and parliamentary Standing Orders.
Individual members are expected to inform the Speaker of their intention to quit parties.
Registered political entities here and elsewhere have rules and regulations that bind members, leaders and aspirants.
Failure to play by the rules should earn an errant member wrath that could be too painful to bear. Find out from KANU members what used to happen to rebels in the years gone.
It defeats reason and common sense therefore that leaders on oath to protect and defend the country\’s constitution are free to violate the same including their own constitutions with unparalleled impunity and expect the governed to obey the law.
The restructured new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission should have the mandate to conduct nominations and elections for parties, trade unions, sports, co-operative movements amongst other institutions in which the public have a stake.
The writer is a former cabinet minister and one time secretary general of the then ruling party, Kenya African National Union (KANU) Email: [email protected]