Answers To Free Party Primaries In Kenya.

The Country is reeling from what has come to be known as “Party Primaries”. Others call it nominations – and in many respects it is indeed “nominations” as many feel that those who succeed in a process that should involve electioneering are most times favoured candidates of the party honchos.

This writer was privileged to be one of the ODM Candidates for the position of Senator in Kakamega County. The nominations process was a sham. To begin with, the arrangements for the exercise were full of confusion. Initially, the exercise was scheduled for 1st April 2017- Fools day. This was contrary to the electoral law which required political parties to forward their lists of aspirants to IEBC for gazettement before they could conduct their primaries.

On 5th April, 2017 some candidates were invited by way of SMS to a consultative meeting at Kakamega Social Hall on Friday 7th April 2017 to discuss procedure of conducting the primaries. At that meeting the candidates were casually informed that all decisions for the conduct of the primaries had been decided by the national office in Nairobi and that the nominations would be conducted by ODM members only.

The first problem was that the candidates were not informed how party members were to be identified. There was no verified list of party members anywhere. At the end of the meeting, it was not clear who would participate in the nominations exercise with the result that in some areas non- ODM members were threatened to keep of while or others people voted with their ids only.
To make matters worse, several polling stations were “merged” without any notice to the voters. The result is that on the polling day, many did not know where to go to vote and many were turned away when they went to certain stations.

As concerns the party electoral body – the National Electoral Board, the less said the better. It is a den of corruption headed by political dinosaurs. They have no clue what their roles are.

Coming to the ground, we had many reports in which some actors were actively involved in the recruitment of referees – the supervisors and the polling clerks. Despite assurances that returning officers would be people from outside – Apparently to guarantee objectivity and independence, the role of those returning officers was not felt so that as the famous Soviet Dictators Joseph Stalin once put it the nominations exercise was not decided by the people who came out to but by the people who counted the votes.

More drama was witnessed in the voting itself. Ballot papers arrived as late as 4.00pm in the exercised that was slated to start at 6.00 a.m. There were cases were some candidates openly bribed voters.  We had reports in which some candidates hired “men in black” to scare of “Jubilee moles”. In some cases agents of “unwanted” candidates were chased from polling stations. It is an open secret that in some places no voting took place yet results were declared. In others, boxes came stuffed with ballots and were admitted. Counting of ballots was delayed till darkness set in order to facilitate manipulation in tallying centers which did not have good lighting.   Finally, we had many instances where people from other counties were ferried to come and vote in Kakamega.

The anomalies cited in the Kakamega ODM nominations were basically replicated across the country and were felt in all the parties that conducted nominations including the Jubilee party. These events are clearly an affront to the freedom of Kenyans to exercise their political rights under Article 38 of the Constitution.

To begin with, it was wrong for all the political parties to pretend to conduct nominations without verified party lists. On this score alone, all the nominations carried out so far are illegal.

In order to guarantee democracy in Kenya in the future, we must ensure that we get out acts right from the point of the party primaries. For us to expect credible general elections, we must insist that party primaries must be free from any form or violence, intimidation improper influence or corruption.

It is also a constitutional mandate that all elections must be conducted by an independent body and the same must be transparent and be administered in an impartial neutral, efficient, accurate and accountable manner. To achieve this, the party nominations must be divorced from control of the party mandarins who have converted the exercise into schemes to extort money from aspirants in the form of exorbitant “nomination fees” followed by demands for bribes to guarantee favourable outcomes.

In order to achieve the prerogatives for progressive democracy, it is necessary that going forward, IEBC must actively play the referee role in party primaries to ensure that they are able to deliver credible outcomes at the general elections.
Wabuyabo is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Managing Partner of Wabuyabo Lukoba & Co. advocates…. jawabb@yahoo.com

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