What you need to know:
- Political parties mobilising Kenyans to register and vote for their candidates should be rewarded.
- Political parties spend enormous resources in their electoral preparedness activities and they should be compensated for it.
The Political Parties (Amendment) Bill 2021 has been passed by the National Assembly. It awaits debate and concurrence by the Senate before assent by the President to become law.
Of the key changes proposed, the one that comes out conspicuously is that political parties that fail to “have any” (emphasis mine) elected MP, senator, governor or MCA — that is, if “the party does not have an elected member of the National Assembly, an elected member of the Senate, an elected Governor, or an elected member of a county assembly” according to the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly — will be excluded from sharing in the tens of millions of shillings from the Political Parties Fund.
The Political Parties Act 2011 states the circumstance in which a political party participating in a general election receives no funding. And that is if it does not secure at least five per cent of the total number of votes at the preceding general election.
The Act further requires that political parties get 0.3 per cent of the national government revenue. However, those that qualify for funding have, since 2017, received only 0.03 per cent of national government revenue from the National Treasury.
The formula for determining funding is computed by tallying the votes obtained by a party in the presidential, constituency, senatorial, gubernatorial and county assembly polls in the preceding general election.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has cleared 82 political parties to contest in the August 2002 General Election. That means they meet its threshold for holding party primaries and nominating candidates for all the elective positions. The proposal in the bill to exclude the participating political parties from state funding is, therefore, discriminatory and anti-thesis to growth of a young democracy like ours.
Among key election stakeholders are the IEBC and the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP). These two have been at the forefront urging cleared political parties to mobilise their members and supporters to register as voters and participate in elections.
For parliamentarians to turn around and claim that the same parties will lose out on funding is grossly unfair. To deny them this constitutional right is gross injustice.
And this is why. First, in the winner-takes-all election contests, as in Kenya’s, every vote counts. Therefore, political parties mobilising Kenyans to register and vote for their candidates should be rewarded. Secondly, political parties spend enormous time, energy and resources in their electoral preparedness activities and they should be compensated for it.
Thirdly, promoting democracy should be an inclusive — not exclusive — affair. And it should not be at the expense of denying civic-minded patriotic Kenyans the opportunity to nurture their nascent political parties.
Party funding formula
Fourth, political party growth can only be nurtured if upcoming outfits are supported logistically through capacity building and financially to meet their obligations. Fifth, the role of independent candidates (those with no party affiliation) cannot be ignored. According to the IEBC, of the 14,523 candidates in the 2017 General Election, 4,002 (or 27.5 per cent) were independent.
Worth noting is that over 20 per cent of total votes cast must have been in their favour. This cohort, no doubt, represented a substantial proportion of electors, which cannot be ignored in nurturing our democratic process.
With the onset of multiparty democracy, fringe parties and independent candidates play a vital role in our democratic architecture. Their exclusion from financial support is discriminatory as they have proven to be an important alternative. There is, therefore, a need to re-look at the political party funding formula to include the independents.
On a positive note, the ORPP has been mandated by the proposed law to train all political party agents in readiness for the general election. This is, no doubt, a welcome development which should be rolled out as soon as practically possible.
Dr Gitu is an educator and governance, policy and strategy adviser. [email protected] @GNjauGitu