Parties bill will demonetise our politics

National Assembly

National Assembly members during Coalition Bill debate on December 29, 2021.

Photo credit: Pool

If passed into law, the Political Parties Amendment Bill 2021 is likely to be a game changer in Kenyan politics as it will introduce the time factor in coalition making, putting into consideration the fact that the factorial value of a political party is the product of all the coalitions it has snubbed to settle on the very last.

Politics was designed to be a game of gaining and distributing power with resources in a given jurisdiction. That requires a proper plan that starts with a campaign ideology. Similar (or even same) ideologies are more likely to merge for the purpose of gaining and maintaining power and sharing the resources. This is irreducible in a democracy.

Kenya has in recent history been getting governments through political coalitions. For instance, the 2002 Narc government was a result of a coalition of opposition parties that frustrated the efforts of the ruling Kanu party, then under outgoing President Daniel arap Moi, to hold on to power through a new candidate. Similarly, the famous ‘Pentagon’ of 2007 was a coalition that almost took power from President Mwai Kibaki’s PNU.

In 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA and William Ruto’s URP, as Jubilee alliance, took power under a then-new current Constitution.

This is indirectly imposed on us by the Constitution, under Article 138 (4). To win the presidential election and be declared a winner by the electoral registry, one must be a product of a political coalition capable of gaining a majority of the votes in more than 24 counties and attain more than half of the total votes cast.

However, the post-election life of Kenyan coalitions has not been smooth due to the dishonesty witnessed while coming up with them. Narc did not survive four years before it disintegrated. The Jubilee alliance, which later became a political party, was forced to break up into its original small parties after the major players fell out. Even the opposition Nasa coalition that competed with Jubilee in the 2017 elections died three years later.

That proves that the merging of ideologies does not meet the standards to guarantee survival. Probably, monetisation has been the main reason why parties come together and thus cannot beat the time factor.

The bill seeks to reduce time for parties to wait for the highest bidder and give meaning to the use of ideologies. Even coalition making should have a procedure in law since it contributes to the governance of the country. The two-month limit is a mockery of multipartysm and the rule of law. It is a possible recipe for chaos and governance ills that threaten the proper usage of law.

Future coalitions should be made a year before the election to avoid fence-sitting and give room for parties and candidates to popularise their bids. Then, money is not likely to exchange hands and coalitions will only be based on ideologies.

Arasa Makori, Kisii

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