Saturday, March 25, 2017

We don't need political parties

Do we really need political parties in Kenyan politics? I don't think so. And it is not because the United States (the world's most sophisticated banana republic), the United Kingdom (the world's most sophisticated theocratic lunatic asylum) or India (the worlds largest, noisiest and most colourful democracy) have demonstrated the wisdom of not having political parties. It is because Kenya simply cannot afford the politics that is organised around political parties.

To begin with, the charlatans elected as MCAs, MPs, Woman Reps or Senators have absolutely no reason to be loyal to the members of their political parties from wards, constituencies or counties that they do not come from. Sure, they can share ideologies or a particular strain of greed or a pathology that disappears women from public discourse or a penchant for deflowering teenagers, but they don't actually have to belong to the same club in order to get elected.

Second, Kenyan politicians have demonstrated a capacity for building coalitions and alliances that have actually nothing to do with political parties. These coalitions and alliances have always been about the personalities of the deal-makers first, and only afterwards because of a technicality in the law, have they been about the political parties. The best examples I can offer are both about the alliances that the Jubilants' principals have entered into since 2012. Mr Ruto jumped from ODM, attempted to "buy" UDM, before settling for URP which was the reason why when he and Uhuru Kenyatta, who jumped from Kanu and "bought" TNA, forged an alliance, Kenyans remember that it was first an Uhuru/Ruto alliance before it became a TNA/URP alliance. 

In 2016, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto maintained their personal alliance, but they jettisoned their 2012 vehicles (TNA and URP), stopped over briefly in a cul-de-sac called Jubilee Alliance Party, before finally settling on a vehicle in which they ostensibly own equal shares called, not surpisingly, Jubilee Party of Kenya. Parties were irrelevant to their decision-making.

Third, Kenyans are notoriously not joiners of political parties, notwithstanding the "millions" of Kenyans who have ostensibly signed up with the Labour Party of Kenya, the Jubilee Alliance Party, Ford Asili or the Maendeleo Chap Chap Party. As some of us have discovered to our horror, the Registrar of Political Parties has accepted party lists that include millions of Kenyans who did not make the conscious choice to become members of those parties. Anecdotal evidence shows that very few Kenyans care enough to want to be permanent members of political parties with very little staying power. I mean, how many of you remember the United Democratic Party, UDM, or its office-bearers?

Fourth, political parties are just an excuse for countless bureaucrats to be employed by the public service. In a world where the President declares that we have limited public resources, we shouldn't spend countless billions of shillings on a bureaucratic machinery for policing and regulating political parties that is bound to be misused and accused of dastardly misdeeds.

Finally, if you want to increase the levels of political honesty in Kenya, getting rid of political parties gets rid of a reason for politicians to lie that they believe in the "ideologies, principles and policies" of the parties of their choice. Mr Odinga doesn't have to lie that he thinks Kalonzo Musyoka or Moses Wetangula are his political equals simply because they have managed to, in theory, corral ethnicities into their political "buses". He can simply strike a bargain with them to campaign together throughout the country with the intention of capturing political power and sharing the spoils among themselves. You don't need a party for that.

The registration thresholds for different levels of elected positions might seem to require political parties but they don't. The provisions on the nomination of independent candidates to stand in elections can be applied for the whole system.

If you can show me why political parties are necessary in Kenyan politics, I'd be interested to find out. But for now, they are a waste of resources and sources of political turmoil and conflict that are easily avoided.

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