Why we must have national political parties

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BY JOSEPH KAMOTHO

In a new Kenya, individual, regional and tribal political parties are set to be things of the past. The death is imminent because the new Constitution insists on political organisations that reflect its diverse membership in the new constitutional dispensation.

Individual politicians took advantage of the silence of the law on the character of these organisations and formed village, regional and tribal associations christened ‘parties’ when competitive politics was re-introduced in the country twenty years ago.

In other words, these parties were formed for speculative and extortionate purposes. It is not a surprise therefore to hear of little known parties on sale to the highest bidder when elections are around the corner. The leaders /owners harvest handsome nomination fees from other party rejects determined to appear on the ballot paper. Parties are election conveyor belts to the lawmaking institution and local authorities which shamelessly boast individuals elected on tickets of nondescript entities.

There are valid reasons for insisting on parties being national. They are funded from the Exchequer because the funds belong to all Kenyan taxpayers not a section of the population. Similarly , it would not make sense for a winning presidential candidate to garner 50 percent plus one and 25 percent in 24 counties but spare the same criteria for national parties whose membership should be diverse. At least 25 percent membership in half of the counties should be mandatory.

To avoid mischief, a register of party members and prospective candidates should be filed with the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties and nominations for elections should be carried on the same day by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to forestall movement of voters from one nomination to another.

Cognisant of the foregoing, the Committee of Experts on the Constitution (CoE) addressed some of these disturbing issues in the final draft in the hope that leaders would make organisations ideological and do away with personality cults that characterise the country’s landscape .

However, the good intentions captured in the supreme law have been undermined by political leaders who are in the habit of forming alliances for election purposes or deposing individuals and institutions. The changes in the Political Parties Act are living proof of these parochial interests.

Of late, there is a group formed to lock out an individual in the President Kibaki succession due sometime next year when his second and last term ends. This group does not seem to learn from history. Political alliances and groupings have been temporary and served short term interest. It is not a secret that either of the parties in a coalition get swallowed or part ways as soon as elections are over.

The marriage between LDP and the opposition alliance NAK that propelled Kibaki to power on National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) ticket collapsed soon after the 2002 poll. Another example of grouping of convenience is the Party of National Unity (PNU) alliance President Kibaki defended his second term on a PNU ticket.

A Kenyan leader worth the name must and should condemn in the strongest terms possible tribal groupings in a country that is yet to heal from the post election bloody and fatal violence in which more than 1,000 people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands uprooted from their homes. Similarly, the Registrar of Political and the National Cohesion and Integrity Commission should crack the whip on political prostitution and hate mongers.

For Kenya to be a democratic state, the political mindset of the yesteryears has to change. Parliament must and should be an agent of reforms that conform with the peoples’ desire.

(The writer is a former cabinet minister and one time secretary general of the then ruling party, Kenyan African National Union (KANU). Email; kamothojj@gmail.com)

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