Major political parties need to do more to fight corruption

Our political parties are mostly regional, even the most popular ones.

In Summary

• One of the questions many Kenyans keep asking in every election cycle has been what role political parties should play in ensuring that only leaders with impeccable credentials and integrity get to carry their party tickets.

• It is common knowledge that in several parts of Kenya, certain political party tickets is a guarantee of election at all levels. 

Hundreds of youth attend a political rally in Nairobi
Hundreds of youth attend a political rally in Nairobi
Image: FILE

In a few months’ time, thousands of aspirants for various elective seats will present their names to both major political parties and those considered “briefcase parties’ in the hope of carrying their flags during the 2022 General Elections.

A small percentage of these aspirants will probably choose to go it alone as independent candidates outrightly or after failing to clinch political party tickets.

One of the questions many Kenyans keep asking in every election cycle has been what role political parties should play in ensuring that only leaders with impeccable credentials and integrity get to carry their party tickets.

It is common knowledge that in several parts of Kenya, certain political party tickets is a guarantee of election at all levels.

Our political parties are mostly regional, even the most popular ones. In most regions, the election ends when the dominant political parties issue their nomination certificates to their preferred candidates (either through party primaries or by direct nominations).

For example, if you clinch the Orange Democratic Movement’s ticket in my village constituency of Suba South, you are as good as being elected member of Parliament.

Similarly, if you are the United Democratic Alliance’s candidate in Kapseret Constituency, your opponents would be considered foolish for contesting against you because that ticket will most likely land you in Parliament.

The evidence is there for everyone to see - an overwhelming majority of elected leaders in Kenya come through as political party candidates.

This means that parties are probably the most important starting point for deciding the kind of leaders we should have as a country.

Consequently, we should perhaps hold parties to a higher standard when selecting their candidates.

In a country where things like corruption and personal integrity are hot-button issues, it is perhaps time that political parties did more to vet candidates presenting themselves for selection/election on the party tickets.

There needs to be a system in place that ensures that candidates from areas where parties are dominant are thoroughly vetted for party values, leadership and integrity and general ability to perform their functions as elected leaders.

It is ridiculous that in this day and age some people get elected only because they can hurl insults the most – or that parties will choose people known to the public to be crooks just because they can fund the parties and their leaders.

For this to work however, we would have to agree that all political parties care about misuse of public funds and are committed to tackle the root causes – integrity of the candidates selected being one of them.

Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case right now. Some very prominent parties do not even want the war on graft mentioned in their platforms and are in fact known to fight all efforts at fighting corruption – their leaders being very prominently connected with theft of public funds.

A lot of these unsavory characters who get elected do so on the basis of bribing voters using money that is derived from proceeds of corruption, other crimes and even money laundering – giving a prominent role to ill-gotten wealth to influence our democracy.

As we raise the standards, it would be important that we hold the institutions responsible for investigating corruption like the EACC and DCI to operate with the highest standards attainable and insist that the DPP should raise the threshold for the decision to charge corrupt leaders so that the war on graft is not seen as political witch-hunt.

It is embarrassing when state officers are arrested with pomp and colour only for the prosecutors to go to court to ask for more time to conduct investigations.

As we have seen in more developed democracies like the United Kingdom and the United States, suspected financial impropriety is almost always a disqualifying factor when it comes to choosing party candidates and even more adverse in the general elections.

In fact, with the exception of the extraordinary circumstances leading up to the election of former President Donald Trump, no candidate with even a whiff of financial impropriety would even dare to remain in a race, even at the party primary/caucuses level.

Just recently, the celebrated Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo resigned because of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct – most of the pressure to resign coming from his own party members.

In Kenya on the other hand, such notoriety would almost guarantee you a landslide win in a general; election as it gives you the much needed name recognition needed to overcome other hurdles like lack of finances.

An example is a member of parliament from Kisumu County whose only claim to fame was stripping naked in front of TV cameras because he thought his party leader had been insulted.

This particular approved the nomination of a primary school drop out with zero executive experience to be a Cabinet Secretary! And in the run-up to the 2017 elections, a gubernatorial candidate that was widely regarded to have been involved in a major financial scandal in Government was elected despite having left office precisely because of allegations of abuse of office.

It is quite clear that the electorate has no capacity to choose leaders of integrity on their own.

And in a country where local communities are always quick, at a small fee, to demonstrate and riot because one of their leaders has been arrested on charges of corruption, there is a higher responsibility on those who preside over parties to ensure that such people do not meet the cut for nominations.

It is therefore upon political parties to ensure that the electorate, and by extension the country, is protected from these vultures before they get to the inevitability of their election to preside over the affairs of the country both at the County and National levels.

Over to you party leaders.