We can now add the word shambolic to the Kenyan dictionary as a peculiar Kenyan lingo after the just concluded primaries. The parties so called independent tribunals working to solve disputes over nominations have mediated on the issues in a manner that leaves a lot to be desired. From the look of things, the mediation had nothing to do with getting the right candidate but negotiating to have what the party believes is a stronger candidate to take office. Kenyans have witnessed many legitimately nominated candidates surrendering their certificates and pledging support for the party’s favorite.
This form of negotiated democracy is dangerous because it robs the people the ability to have people of their choice. In an interview on Citizen TV with Jeff Koinange, Senator Mike Sonko who clinched Jubilee’s gubernatorial position openly admitted that it was not up to him to pick his running mate but the party. If it boils down to what the party wants then why hold nominations in the first place? Why not just wait to vote in August rather than pretend to allow for democratic space. It’s not just Jubilee, the same is being witnessed in ODM with the tribunal saying the deadline set by IEBC means they have to uphold nominations in contested places like Kisumu.
This nominations also revealed the patriarchy that is our politics. It was surprising to see Kenyans turn up in thousands to elect aspirants for party flag bearer in various positions but only a fraction of the people elected women reps. The contempt for women in politics is encouraged by these party tribunals. Consider the odd case where Elizabeth Ongoro, former ODM aspirant for Ruaraka got a harsh punishment over election violence that involved her supporters and that of incumbent T.J Kajwang’. How the party decided to fine her Sh. 1 million and bar her from competing in the primaries while allowing Kajwang’ to run unopposed was another low for political parties considering women are often the victims in political violence cases.
Jubilee and ODM being the biggest parties in the country the chaos witnessed during the primaries was so palpable. A woman from Alego Usonga lamented to Mzalendo using our short code SMS 21516 about the disorderly nominations in his constituency. Florence* painfully narrated the gimmicks used by the rich candidates dishing out monies and the political party delaying voting to a point that the women, old and sick couldn’t linger long enough to vote. Her view was Kenyans need a new way to identify leaders to represent us at the ballot because party nominations don’t work.
Indeed in regions where the big parties enjoy loyalty there’s need to strengthen party democracy to give hope to women like the one who communicated to us her frustrations. The better option for women like Florence is to identify those independent candidates they believe have vision and real interest in developing their constituency.
Despite the underwhelming dispute resolution offered by the political parties, these primaries have nonetheless offered a glimpse of hope in areas where the people’s will carried the day. We can draw inspiration from nominations held in Umoja estate, Nairobi where a vegetable vendor clinched the ODM MCA ticket against all odds. The people were able to isolate the noise from richer aspirants and see clearly. If we can replicate these patterns on August 8th we’ll be a step closer to ensuring we give National and County governments a breath of fresh air.
Generally, the political parties’ commitment to Constitutionalism and Rule of Law is wanting. Most flouted the Election laws. They also cleared individuals with questionable characters to carry the party’s flag in different elective positions. We hope the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) among other key vetting institutions will prevent these questionable candidates from being on the ballot. However, the last bullet remains with the electorate who can vote them out otherwise the political order that glorifies thieves will remain firm.