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Independent candidates not sore losers in party primaries

By Koki Muli Grignon | November 27th 2021

Independent candidates are supposed to present a value proposition in a democracy. [Robert Kiplagat, Standard]

The philosophy underpinning independent candidates has been elusive since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution. Many a politician believe the avenue to vie for elections as an independent candidate exists to give disgruntled candidates, who for one reason or another were not nominated during their party primaries, an opportunity to still vie. But, that is not why we have independent candidates.

Article 85 of the Constitution provides for eligibility for independent candidates wishing to vie for Parliament (Senate and National Assembly). It provides that any person is eligible to stand as an independent candidate for election if the person is not and has not been a member of a registered political party for at least three months immediately before the date of election.

Independent candidates must also satisfy other requirements for election to Parliament. They should be registered as a voter; satisfy the educational, moral and ethical requirements prescribed by this Constitution or legislation. They must also be supported by at least one thousand registered voters in a constituency, in the case of election to the National Assembly and by at least two thousand registered voters in the county in the case of election to the Senate.

The first time we encountered a high number of independent candidates was in 2017. Of about 15,082 candidates, about 3,752 were independent and although they established an alliance between themselves, it was not based on ideology. The majority were forced to abandon their political parties of choice when they lost in party primaries.

Because there is a requirement that one needs to not belong to a political party 90 days before they present themselves to the IEBC for nomination as an independent candidate; those who lost political party primaries but still wanted to vie had to ensure they relinquished their party membership before May 10th 2017.

This is also why parties were pushed by their candidates to convene party primaries early enough. Consequently, the majority of those who vied as independent candidates, did so to remain in the race but not to fulfil the tenets of the independent candidature, which clearly the majority of the political elite pay no attention to.

Independent candidates are supposed to present a value proposition in a democracy. They are supposed to espouse independent political ideologies and philosophy representing citizens who align themselves with the values, principles, philosophy and ideology of independents. They represent a middle ground.

Independent ideas, that political parties do not support. In Kenya, sadly, the concept of independent candidature is misunderstood, to the extent of people coming together to register a party of independent candidates!

This undermines the very reason of existence of independent candidatures. In fact, independent candidates tend to think they are independent of anyone and accountable to none and can choose to sell their support once elected to the highest bidding political party.

The practice is usually that, once an independent candidate has been elected, they gravitate towards their original political parties in Parliament or County Assembly; those that remain independent, they do so not to represent any particular ideology, because they never seek like-minded voters/citizens, but they chill until the next election.

Some independent candidates are only independent by name.  

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