Part of the constitutional requirements for political parties is that they have a democratically elected governing body as well as promote and practice democracy through holding regular, fair and free elections within the party.
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) recently had its grassroots election in fulfilment of this constitutional requirement. The election saw a repudiation seasoned, party “heavy weights” and long- term political party incumbents. Instead of electing the “usual suspects” registered party members chose to elect new comers to lead the party at constituency level. One of the papers termed the party’s grassroots election outcomes as “a series of upsets and surprises.” Clearly the unseating of the long-term party officials is not a common occurrence.
The Interim Independent Electoral Commission Registered Political Parties List for 2011 contains 47 registered political parties. As the political parties comply with the constitutional requirement to have democratically elected governing body and hold free and fair elections within the party it will be interesting to see if the unseating of the seasoned politicians from political party leadership continues across the board.
The unseating of political party incumbents is not just an ODM grassroots elections phenomenon. In the several by-elections that have been a result of election petitions filed since the general election of 2007 few incumbents have won back their electoral seats. So whether or not one sees political party grassroots elections as being significant the signal from the electorate to the elected is clear things have got to change.