Let’s approach party folding proposal with a lot of caution

Cleophas Malala

United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party secretary-general Cleophas Malala. The fervour of Mr Malala to fold affiliate parties seems to be too ambitious for comfort.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

As they say, the devil is in the details. And the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Some people think the country—under the Kenya Kwanza Alliance administration headed by President William Ruto—is headed back to a single-party system.

Some other people think it is a political intolerance to seclude fringe parties from political scenery. Yet others, like me, think it’d be a suicidal mission if hastily done.

The fervour of the new United Democratic Alliance (UDA) secretary-general, Cleophas Malala, to fold affiliate parties seems to be too ambitious for comfort. Ambition is good if curbed within the precincts of reality and sobriety. If not, the nobility of this idea could be defeated by the messenger.

The Kenyan history of the one-party system is not worth talking about in the post-2010 Constitution era. Regardless, the need for strong political parties is desirable. The country has 90 registered parties, most of which do not have a single elected leader.

US, UK style

Perhaps, that informs UDA’s desire to play in the league of the United States and the United Kingdom, which mainly have two dominant parties. America has the Democratic and the Republican parties while the UK has the Conservative and Labour parties, which take power almost interchangeably.

But one thing Malala fails to understand is that these fringe parties in UDA have their share of contribution to the ruling party’s successes (and failures too). Some voters may not be uncomfortable voting for UDA but vote for it through proxy regional parties. Further, the Kenya Kwanza coalition is not at war with itself to warrant such premature in-fighting.

Coalition governments being a component of other parties, both big and small, always checkmate each other. The Grand Coalition Government is credited with doing a lot because it was a ‘friendly-foe’ regime; each side was the other’s referee. This reduces common power and resource abuse.

It’s a good idea to build strong political parties. But first, we need to put the best structures in place, amongst them robust internal dispute mechanisms and proper nomination rules devoid of interference from any quota. In fact, the latter is the reason many are cynical of one party. In some areas, winning the nomination is an assured victory.

And this process has been abused for ages. The highest bidder is rigged in. The person closest to the party leader gets a direct nomination. And the most ‘philanthropic’ mistresses are rewarded in equal measure. And for Malala, Maya Angelou says: “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” Choose one.

Mr Munoko is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected].