Political parties major stumbling block for democracy in Kenya

The acrimony that has dogged Jubilee Party nominations ahead of the November 7 Kibra Constituency by-election has, once again, exposed the facade of our so-called democracy. There has been hue and cry over what many see as the handpicking of footballer McDonald Mariga to be the Jubilee flag bearer in the election.

As a result, 15 other aspirants have been locked out due to the ruling party's failure to conduct a transparent nomination exercise.

Angered by the decision, Morris Kinyanjui, one of the aspirants, has protested the nomination to the party, saying the vetting exercise that led to Mariga's nomination was done "in secrecy and contrary to the party regulations".

ODM, which has conducted several shambolic primaries in the past, has promised free and fair exercise tomorrow to pick its candidate from a poll of 11 aspirants. But whether the process will be fair and transparent remains to be seen.

ANC picked Eliud Owalo, who recently decamped from ODM, to vie in the by-election. Party Chairman Musalia Mudavadi, perhaps to pre-empt accusations of favouritism, clarified that those who had earlier applied for nomination on ANC ticket did not follow proper procedures.

Democracy envisages participation of the people in choosing their leaders. But this is rarely the case in Kenya. Political parties, which usually accuse IEBC of lacking fairness, are notorious for muddying the waters during primaries, through sins of commission and omission.

Too often, candidates who are ill-equipped to offer meaningful leadership, are foisted on the electorate through direct nomination. Such candidates are chosen based on cronyism, nepotism or their ability to buy their way in.

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In other cases, orchestrated violence throws primaries into disarray, denying party members a chance to make their pick, giving the party honchos an opportunity to nominate their preferred candidates. Poor planning of primaries, like happened in the 2017 Jubilee primaries, also denies worthy candidates an opportunity to serve.

Until individual parties ensure that their internal democracy works by picking candidates through transparent processes, there is no doubt democracy will remain a mirage in Kenya; we will keep on electing leaders who have the blessings of party bosses. Little wonder then that we suffer crisis of leadership?

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Jubilee Party nominationsKibra by-election