Why independents deserve State funding for their campaigns

(Photo: Courtesy)

As the country heads to the final stretch of the 2017 General Election, the issue of campaign funding for independent candidates should be put on the political agenda, discussed and conclusively addressed. With close to 5,000 contestants on the independent ticket right from the presidency to members of County Assembly, this country cannot wish away the reality of funding for this huge body of candidates who have constitutionally secured nominations.

While mainstream parties and their respective candidates are engaged in massive spending on campaigns, independent candidates have been left to fend for themselves. And given the hard economic times, the political playing field cannot be said to be even for independents vis-à-vis those fronted by political parties.

Even as Kenyans are generally burdened by the high cost of living, mainstream political parties – Jubilee and NASA are enjoying a truly extravagant campaign blitz.

Word has it that some of the campaign materials for these parties and their candidates are being produced from as far off places as China, Dubai and Papua New Guinea. That in itself speaks volumes about the huge resources that the two main parties have invested respective presidential candidates.

This heavy spending by parties on campaign materials is obviously intended to bolster the chances of their respective candidates.

On the flipside, independent candidates have been relying on their personal resources to run their campaigns and as much as one may argue that they should carry their own cross, their plight should attract national attention.

This is not only because the Constitution allowed them to run but more so because they are products of a flawed nomination process in particular and a failed multiparty experiment.

The independent candidates’ wave is not only a testimony to the extent of failure by taxpayer-funded political parties to run credible nominations but it should serve as a godsend opportunity for the country to critically re-examine and interrogate the future of Kenya’s political system as pillars of our multiparty democracy.

That interrogation must involve a thorough review of the political party structures and party formation, management and recruitment of members as well as policies and ideologies of existing and future political parties.

Independent candidates are a glimpse into the type rot that exist in Kenya’s political party system and cannot therefore be denied funding while those in parties rode to nominations on the dark horses of fraud, favouritism and open stealing of votes or outright manipulation of party machinery.

As a journalist who has keenly followed the politics of this country for the best part of the one-party rule - Kanu- as well as the multi-party regime, political parties have miserably failed the test of time and integrity. Indeed, our hope of nurturing a true democracy under the guidance of mature and sustainable political parties has turned out to be a huge disappointment.

Our dream of building strong political party institutions founded on clear ideologies that can attract voluntary membership and offer Kenyans real options to join and participate in formulation of their policies and programmes have turned out to be a pipedream.

Since the return to multiparty democracy, political parties have systematically and surely been reduced to tribal outfits whose only serious business is to compete for political power.

That is why individuals seeking power now change political parties at whim precisely because parties have become mere bridges to political power.

While mature political parties around the world present candidates for elections and remain intact thereafter, ours is a corrupted party system where individuals front parties only for seeking elections and leave or drive parties to sudden death thereafter.

That is why parties belong to those with huge resources to dispense making the party nomination process a very expensive affair out of reach for the ordinary folk. The presidency is now a mere dream for ordinary Kenyans as its price has been pushed through the roof. At this rate, will the son or daughter of a true peasant ever rise to the presidency without first hustling to join the big boys in the league by accumulating resources through hook or crook?

And because those who rise to power through this flawed system are not interested in reforming the system, parties are routinely abandoned and new outfits born ahead of every General Election. That is why no political party has won an election twice since the removal of Kanu from power in 2002.

It is for the same reasons that no party in Kenya can boast of voluntary mass membership.

This year, Jubilee has metamorphosed into a full party after swallowing TNA, URP and other associate parties. The opposition brigade has equally mutated and become NASA if only in name.

This ever mutating and metamorphosing nature of political parties in Kenya is what has ruined Kenya’s chances of building and sustaining a true multiparty democratic tradition founded on principle and ideology.

Today, Kenyan political parties are mere recycled shopping bags which are discarded after delivering home the political goodies.

Mr Musebe, is a career journalist contesting the Webuye West parliamentary seat as independent candidate. [email protected]