ODM must be reminded that polls are about obeying rules of the game

One of the things that happened to humankind once capitalism became a dominant mode of production, first in Western Europe and then in the rest of the world, is that people were compelled to live under certain rules governing political, economic and social life. This is what came to be known as “the rule of law”. That is doing things which, even when they are unpalatable to one individual, are acceptable as “normal forms of behaviour” commensurate with keeping harmonious relations in capitalist society even though this very society continued to be replete with many contradictions inherent in its very nature.

To constitute means to “bring together”. This is where the word constitution came from. That is a gathering together of a whole body and precepts meant to govern society as a single—a constituted—political community. Where capitalism first prospered like in England, beginning with the Magna Carta in the thirteenth century, a whole body of principles and laws, the corpus of constitutional law, was central to capitalist development.

People in developing societies like ours, however, quite often retard the development of capitalism—and of the many political, legal and social institutions that go with it—simply because their mentality remains pre-capitalist and quite often hostile to the rule of law. In other words they are uncivil and perhaps incapable of internalising the precepts of civil society. Corruption, gross mismanagement of public institutions, personalising political processes like elections and political hooliganism in word and deed all belong to this category of the subversives to the rule of law and “retarders” of capitalist development.

Take for example the ongoing ODM grassroots party elections. The first thing that any civilised human being who intends to participate in these elections should know is that they are carried out under some very specific rules and regulations. Disobeying these rules and regulations, ignoring them, undermining them or even creating rules of one’s own are all tantamount to being disqualified from the process and its outcome altogether. Democratic elections are, in any case, first and foremost a struggle over the rules of the game (that is within party organs) before it becomes a struggle among candidates fighting to be elected to this or that position.

The ODM National Executive Committee, together with the National Elections Board, had established a rule that, at the polling station—the primary unit in the structure of governance of the party—those with the National ID and/or voters’ cards—would elect their officials and delegates on voting day. I visited Chulaimbo Secondary School on the morning of Saturday, October 3 and found out that the Presiding Officer was asking voters for their party cards. I informed him that this was against the rules. He told me his Returning Officer in Kisumu West Constituency had instructed him to do so. I told him to consult Commissioner Peter Odoyo for clarification. On hearing the name Peter Odoyo he immediately told me he would abide by the law because I had no reason to cheat him.

Soon after that I got calls from various polling stations where similar demands were being made by Presiding Officers for party cards. I immediately informed Commissioner Peter Odoyo of these malpractices citing Chulaimbo, Lisuka Primary School, Oluowa Primary School and Lwala Kadawa. If irregularities could be carried out at the most primary level of electing delegates and officials, how valid would the whole process be? Political processes in market societies should be based on rules and regulations as predictable as the laws of supply and demand. Once laws of supply and demand are interfered with, crises and distortions follow in the market similar to crises and distortions that follow in a democracy like those of 2007/08.

The Kisumu experience on Monday at the Tom Mboya Labour College when the election of county officials aborted due to political thuggery were no doubt as a result of those who did not want to play by the rules of the game. By introducing thugs into the hall, they were imposing players in a game where thuggery was not part of the rules. For party rules, regulations and processes to stabilise democracy within the party, such subversives must not only be punished according to the rule of law, but they must also be expelled from the party since they cannot play by the rules.

Investors in market societies are averse to lack of predictability in politics since politics quite often determines the safety of investments and the making of profits. Tom Mboya Hall may find their clientele reduced due to the image created on Monday that all may not be safe for meetings held there. A loss of conference tourism in Tom Mboya will no doubt be a loss to the economy of Kisumu. With such a loss landlords will miss tenants, hotels will miss guests, boda boda and matatus will miss passengers, etc. The chain is long. Must Kisumu residents suffer economic hardships just because a few thugs and their paymasters are determined to get their way in party elections? I think not. But what needs to be done?

The party organs must stop being permissive and tolerating political hooliganism year in year out without taking definitive action which will preserve civility in the party. Examined closely, the majority of party members are very law abiding. The majority of the party’s leadership are equally men and women who respect the rule of law. But a few sacred cows have been allowed to enjoy political impunity within the party under the assumption that they are indispensable to the party and its leadership. This cancer of impunity based on the notion of indispensability must be firmly removed from the party. If this is not done then we shall lose the political game by belonging to a banana republic type of political party.

Commissioner Odoyo spoke very strongly following the incidence at Tom Mboya Labour College on Monday. Although the party does not have a police force, the party operates under the rule of law provided for in the Constitution and the Political Parties Act. I urge the party to stick by the rule of law and expunge political hooliganism and impunity from the party. In doing that we will not only save the economy of Kisumu but, lo and behold, the party with such a wide grassroots appeal in the republic will find itself winning the ultimate prize—the Presidential and General Election.

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ODM odm elections