•This has created a situation where those who come into power serve the interests of their funders hence political accountability is to those who finance the parties and not to the citizens.
•On the other hand, a strong culture of handouts has arisen. This has narrowed the political space.
It will be an interesting one: a proposed legal requirement that political parties in Kenya include in their registration, ideology and philosophy. Included will be strict adherence to affirmative action, manifesto and clear substance of their formation.
There is a thinking around requiring the candidates make up their mind on whether they want to stand as independents or through political parties- you can't use both in the same general election. Whether Parliament will consider this bill and pass is a matter of time. Remember what happened to the proposed regulations on capping of political financing?
Passing elections related law reforms especially coming close to the general election are always suspect and problematic with limited chances of being passed. Given the high level movement with the political space ahead of elections, will the political class allow such proposals pass?
Even with the existing political parties and Elections Acts in place, there is still serious confusion in the political system in the country and as such we likely to see the same individuals and parties dominate both the county, national and senate systems for a number of years. The legal regime has largely to put in place structures that would instill discipline amongst the politicians so that we at least bring sanity in the political/economic spheres of the country.
That parties abide by the requirement to submit nomination names especially on affirmative action aspects is very progressive thinking, but with the current impunity and commercially driven politics in Kenya, and increasingly tribal inclined politics, will the parties rewards sponsors or affirmative action?
Reality is that Kenya’s politics and governance system is very brutal, cunning, complex and demanding; that faint hearted can barely survive. It has no respect for long term planning and can really upset. It survives on quick fixes while resolving around some key permanent personalities and government operatives.
Many of the parties are liberal/socialism oriented and given the poverty in the country, they all promise in their manifestos and political promises to give free social services but which will be heavily funded from heavy taxation or external support.
The free service model seems populist to Kenyans, but they rarely give the details of the sources of funds to support the freebles they promise, in a country where corruption, tax evasion and public waste of funds is the order of the day. In a country dominated by capitalistic tendencies, patronage and tribalism and now with a devolved governance system seems to have borrowed from the menace at the national level will manage.
The political system remains the main cause of tensions and poverty in Kenya is still intact; but it rarely creates permanent enemies for its not based on ideology, thus nothing permanent. It can really frustrate those who came in thinking they will fix it or improve things for Kenyans; it favours players; not necessarily money but those patient; and some grey haired professionals in government are critical players; ignore them at your own peril.
It has no respect for popularity and off late those with huge online following, but high social connection, ability to predict events and hold a hand on the key personalities especially those who own political parties.
It has men and women, highly educated, professionals with integrity who freely abandon values to cross the bridge, very intelligent guys who know what they are doing; just that doing what benefits Kenyans rarely concerns them.
Our political parties while big in names largely operate like personal fiefdoms of certain founding owners and financiers. Many of political parties remain dormant between elections only to resurface during elections or when clamoring for funds under the Political Parties Act. Few of the parties abide by the law and can barely give you information about their operations, membership expenditures and source of funds. Save for the noises that are heard after failed nomination promises to Parliament, membership to House Committees and loyalty contests, no effort is given to fulfilling the election promises or giving alternative voices when the government is dithering.
The political system is dominated by the same people; who by extension also dominate the economic and governance system through old networks– and being interested and having been beneficiaries of the old system also have a hand in the security, judicial and public service. To survive, it occasionally admits and absorbs newcomers, who are quickly recruited to become radicalized defenders of the system, which they rarely understand.
Those making it to Parliament deeply indebted after spending during the campaigns, become vulnerable guns for hire. This has created a situation where those who come into power serve the interests of their funders hence political accountability is to those who finance the parties and not to the citizens. On the other hand, a strong culture of handouts has arisen. This has narrowed the political space.
There are desirable lessons that Kenyans should borrow from. We need to push our political party process to that allows us to achieve the desired economic and social goals that we aspire for in our manifestos; they are highly tied to the political processes and the quality of our political leadership is very important. We need leadership from across the country to openly and honestly lead a national conversation that is needed in the country. The sobriety and disciple that is required of such undertaking is lacking in our political system. We need more vigorous involvement in the search for a peaceful and development-focused nation by academicians, religious leaders, non-state actors to force a national conversation that has direction and Kenya at heart.