Undermining parties will weaken democracy

Political parties are an important organisation in the country’s democratic governance. It is mainly through parties that the people elect their leaders, right from the grassroots to the national level.

Independents are just gadflies whose impact is minuscule. In fact, they either gravitate towards the ruling party or the opposition in the county assemblies and Parliament.

Ironically, it is these very parties that sometimes undermine our democracy. A case in point is the notoriously corrupt party nominations for elections, whereby the leaders often usurp the people’s right to choose their favourite candidates by imposing their cronies, allies or sycophants on them through ‘direct tickets’.

Parties are also mostly undemocratic, with their leaders wielding immense powers to even eject members they suspect of not toeing their line.

The ongoing bitter feud in the former ruling Jubilee Party is a clear manifestation of what is wrong with the running of these otherwise crucial organisations. 

While there is a need to legally regulate parties to ensure they are not dominated and misused by certain interests at the expense of the membership, the power wielded by a government official, the Registrar of Political Parties, over them is becoming a source of friction.

Jubilee is being torn apart by a fight between two factions, one allied to retired President Uhuru Kenyatta. Trying to wrest the party from him are allies-turned-foes Sabina Chege and Kanini Kega. Interestingly, Ms Chege is in Parliament courtesy of a nomination by Jubilee under Mr Kenyatta, and so is Eala MP Kega.

President William Ruto’s recognition of Ms Chege as Jubilee’s party leader is bound to worsen the raging internal conflict that is, of course, being externally fuelled. Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu has confirmed the expulsion from Jubilee of three top officials allied to former President Kenyatta but the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal reinstated them. 

The registrar should streamline political parties but as an independent arbiter, not by meddling in their affairs by taking sides and attempting to shore up one faction against another.


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