• Commentators have raised concerns around the legal provisions that should guide the formation of such alliances.
• Questions around what motivates parties and party leaders to join or disjoin one political alliance for another have also emerged.
The ongoing political formations emerging from the 2022 elections have raised questions around principles that guide political alliances.
UDM and Movement for Development and Growth Party from the Azimio la Umoja move to join Kenya Kwanza Alliance has particularly irked sections of the political space in the recent days.
Commentators have raised concerns around the legal provisions that should guide the formation of such alliances. Questions around what motivates parties and party leaders to join or disjoin one political alliance for another have also emerged. Yet political alliance building is as old as the art of politics itself.
A quick reading of our history will reveal that nobody in Kenya’s political history has cobbled, nurtured, established and mobilised political alliances like Raila Odinga. Give it to him. The enigma of Kenya’s politics has formed coalitions, co-operations and political unions with gusto and flamboyance that is unprecedented.
All the current political players in both sides of the major political formations owe their political alliance building skills, both theory and practical, to Raila. How does he do it?
While laws such as the Political Parties Act are key in guiding formation of alliances and coalitions, the freedom of association has largely informed the success of the past outfits. In cobbling together political alliances, politicians joining or leaving have cited trust, disclosure, acceptance and recognition as major factors for consideration.
Coalitions, alliances or co-operations are purely voluntary and are largely formed out of good will and interests among the partners. The law cannot successfully force people to coalesce. The right of association cannot be forced by the law.
Trust is fundamental for the success of coalitions. It means individuals or parties choosing to sit in a coalition or an alliance do not have matters they cannot share amongst each other. Trust deficit in political formations leads to exclusion of those distrusted from major decision making thereby compromising the smooth operation of such formations.
Lack of trust also means that important information that should guide the operation of such formations, including MoUs or articles of association, are not disclosed to all partners of a coalition thereby negatively impacting on the health of such coalitions.
Importantly, partners in political alliances appreciate acceptance into the association that comes with recognition and clear assignment of roles to be played by each and every partner of an alliance.
Acceptance means no partner is viewed suspiciously and all partners are included in plans, execution and review of decisions that concern members of such an alliance. Each participant is recognised particularly for their comparative advantage and the unique set of skills and constituency that the partner contributes to the coalition.
This is also based on the probative value of each partner so that the benefits from the proceeds of such a coalition are based on the strength and weight of the partner. Coalitions are therefore better built on freedom, trust, disclosure, acceptance and recognition. Coalitions built on the law are good but associations are hardly sustainable, if they are not voluntary.
The writer is a masters in Development Studies graduate and a strategic planning consultant