Political parties are foundational to politics and democracy. Under constitutionalism, political parties are the essential vehicle for establishing governments as without them hardly any meaningful public participation can take place. They invite people to register as members who legitimize aspiring candidates to vie for office and if successful form government.
At a recent launch on political parties’ adherence to the law in line with the Constitution in Article 91 and 92 and the Political Parties Act (2011), it was evident that they are not adhering to the law. The study undertaken by the Institute of Education in Democracy (IED) was based on 21 political parties that have representation in Parliament.
According to Article 91(1) of the Constitution all political parties must:
- Have a national character,
- Promote and uphold national unity,
- Have a democratically elected governing body,
- Abide by democratic principles,
- Respect the right of all persons to participate in the political process,
- Respect and promote human rights including gender equality and equity;
- Promote rule of law and;
- Observe the political parties code of conduct.
On the other hand, Article 92 elaborates on the legislations required on political parties.
Kenya has 60 registered political parties. IED looked at how some of these political parties undertake their business, identified the existing gaps and made recommendations on measures that should be taken.
The IED report revealed:
- Political parties and the Registrar of Political Parties are averse to sharing party membership lists. Only three parties shared it. Party membership lists is useful to check to compliance to requirements like gender and regional balance et al.
- The lack of a substantive Registrar of Political Parties is impeding the office from giving better service delivery.
- All parties do not have offices in 24 of the 47 Counties as required by law.
- Disbursement of political parties funds need to be rethought through in order to fund more parties, promote accountability and better service delivery
The gaps identified are not solely about political parties but also the broader electoral system.
Parties birth representatives to Parliament who then determine the bread and butter issues for every Kenyan. Disorder in political parties is inversely connected to poor representation be it in Parliament or County Assemblies.
In addition, political parties are supposed to create forums for interaction of its members with the elected leaders to inform law and policy. With such internal structures in place, party members can take positions on various issues and whip their leaders to move them through Parliament.
Weak party structures deny the public opportunity to pro-actively engage and inform debate in Parliament and County Assemblies. The deeply entrenched culture of Political parties recruiting members in the lead up to elections perpetuates the continued perception that they are vehicles for elections only and renders them still born.
On the other hand, poor civic awareness has caused most Kenyans to ignore registration as Political party members, yet this is the only way to grow our democracy. By joining political parties, the public can push for congregating structures to be established including think tanks, get their preferred candidates nominated and ensure the elected officials deliver on their mandates. For our democracy, to grow Kenyans need to take power back and push for strong parties. Will you rise up?
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