Future of democracy bleak, don warns

September 22, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 22 – A political scientist has warned that Kenya\’s democracy faces a bleak future due to weak party politics, which has seen voters elect leaders on personal merit, as opposed to relying on party manifestos to inform their decisions.

Adams Oloo has cautioned that personalising parties had stifled the importance of policies in the formulation and implementation of national development plans, which should ideally be the pillar of manifestos.

Dr Oloo, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, told Capital News in an interview on Wednesday that the country lacks a system of accountability to ensure that winning parties fully implement their manifestos.

"Most of the time you find that once a party gets into power they leave behind the manifestos they had, and they turn to government bureaucracy to come up with new economic or political policies that they want to pursue," asserted Dr Oloo.

"What is missing in Kenya is a clear link between the manifestos that were sold to the public and the policies that are finally implemented."

He added:  "If you were to go to countries like Tanzania and South Africa you will find that the party is so strong such that the party policies and vision, issues and functionaries end up in government and are implemented."

Since the advent of multiparty politics in 1992, parties in Kenya have been associated with individuals as opposed to strong party democracy.  Loyalty has shifted over the years from one party to another depending on where one\’s preferred tribal and regional leaders stand.

Prior to multipartysm, the Kenya African National Union was the sole party and its decisions and policies were upheld by all.
Dr Oloo said the hope of the country lies on the full implementation of the new Constitution which bars Members of Parliament from the Cabinet and state officers from party posts. He also advocated for two strong political parties with established internal democracy and party structures.

"On that basis we will start thinking along policy lines and look at the policy divide between the parties," he said.

"This way we will eliminate the individualism, ethnicity, regionalism, religiosity and therefore… I join a party based on its policies."

He said the strength of individual candidates as opposed to parties came to the fore in Monday\’s by-election where a political novice Gidion Mbuvi alias Sonko and flamboyant politician William Kabogo won parliamentary seats in Makadara and Juja respectively.

They both vied on Narc Kenya tickets.

Dr Oloo opined that the wins were not necessary to the credit of their sponsoring party, but rather on the basis of their personal strengths.

The political scientist said the upset was due to the recent political trend in the country where focus had slowly moved away from the party politics to that of an individual\’s ability.

He argued that owing to patronage and a breakdown of democracy in most parties, the electorate had now shifted their support to candidates who show genuine concern with their plight.

"Had Mbuvi for example contested on the Kenya Social Congress party, he still would have won since it is \’Sonko\’ the man and not the party," he said.

He was making apparent reference to the fact that Narc Kenya has bragged it is the party to watch, after bagging the Makadara and Juja parliamentary seats.


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