Days of political party patronage over!

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BY JOSEPH KAMOTHO

For once, the Kenyan electorate and aspirants for elective posts are relieved of the burden of electing candidates imposed on them by “tribal chiefs” in charge of registered political parties since the country reverted to competitive politics 19 years ago. Voters can now abandon parties in preference to independents in future contests.

Direct nominations enjoyed by lawmakers, party officials, their relatives and sycophants will be things of the past as are the imposition of candidates on the electorate in elections. Such nominations made multiparty democracy a mockery.

Victims of cruel decisions by party chiefs celebrated the coming into being of the new constitution that could also make the parties truly political ideological formations, instead of personal properties.

The good news is contained in the clauses whose primary aim is to level the playing field and to open doors for aspirants locked out of contests by party barons year in year out.

According to the supreme law, State Officers that include Members of Parliament and Ministers are banned from holding party posts. In addition, aspirants could in future vie for elections as independents.  Already, one presidential aspirant has declared to stand as independent candidate in the 2012 polls.

The lawmakers argue that they are not State Officers and should hence be exempted from the ban. Already, parliamentary party leaders are threatening to breach the sections of the Constitution that could have helped inculcate discipline and internal democracy within registered political entities.

Unlike in the days of yore, many aspirants have been disenfranchised in the advent of multi – party contests by intolerant and dictatorial leaders who have been masquerading as democrats.  In the olden days, with a few exceptions, any number of candidates could be considered for nomination on  the only  party  then, Kenya African National  Union (KANU).

In the run up to the referendum  on the new Constitution, the parties were more interested on Executive  power and ignored other glaring flaws in the document that have suddenly been discovered. Now one can understand why parliamentary party leaders are up in arms against stand taken by the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) that insists on the ratification of the document to the letter.

Other than a joint opposition succeeding to get one of their own to State House in 2002  after two unsuccessful attempts, parties are mere election machines  and neither are they reform tools. Unfortunately, none of the existing parties has a position on any national issue as manifested in their deafening silence over serious matters as the ongoing reforms, the escalating cost of living and runaway inflation. Without party posts, some of the leaders would not have seen inside the legislature and, or become ministers in their lifetime.

In the yesteryear campaigns for the re-introduction of competitive politics in Kenya, reformists of those days accused KANU of dictatorial habits but twenty years later, the so called reformists have proved no better than their political foes in the party that ruled  the country for four decades.

So, the question now at hand is – what is the remarkable difference between KANU and its opponents in the multi party set up?  The answer is little if any.  Only names, symbols and flags distinguish these entities. In short they are nowhere ideologically distinct from the other nor are they qualitatively different  in their socio-economic and political programs;  their manifestoes hold  a telling story about their commonalities.

Fate that befell  the Lancaster House Independence political agreement , later  renamed  Kenya Constitution awaits the new constitution which could suffer another mutilation in the  hands of lawmakers. One can be sure that a flood of proposed changes could fill the  Clerks tray  because many state and public officers find the said clauses unpalatable as they  deny  them  the  comfort of getting away with murder including increasing their salaries and refusal to pay taxes.

The contemplated changes  are meant to suit circumstances as has been the case in the past.  One such amendment contemplated is to be engineered  in restructuring the Political Parties Act.

The writer is a former cabinet minister and one time secretary general of the Kenya African National Union. Email; kamothojj@gmail.com

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