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Party primaries should be free, fair and devoid of chaos

OPINION
By Wilson Sossion | November 28th 2021

The nomination exercise should be above board. [Julius Chepkwony, Standard]

Though political parties have different systems and procedures of nominating aspirants who will vie in the August 9, 2022 General Election, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is obligated to make party primaries free, fair and safe. This would make the elections competitive, which is good for democracy.

It is the party primaries will determine the calibre of Members of Parliament and senators who we will have in the next National Assembly and by extension, and the quality of governors and Members of the County Assemblies who will manage the affairs of county governments.

The success of devolution squarely lies with the election of leaders who are honest, upright, visionary and up to the task. The process of identifying and ushering in this calibre of leaders starts with free, fair and verifiable party primaries.

Hence, flawed party primaries could produce candidates who aren’t competent enough to govern and/or don’t represent the interests of majority of Kenyans. Chaotic party nominations will usher in chaotic, incompetent and amateurish leadership.

Strong county and national assemblies, according to Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), are the cornerstone of democracy and are essential for development. Assemblies represent the people, pass laws and hold both levels of government to account. Therefore, whoever, is nominated for the 2022 election must be a leader of substance. Relatedly, whoever is nominated by parties for the gubernatorial race must be a person of integrity and a visionary.

Thus, demagogues and charlatans should not be allowed space at the nomination table. From my experience, which is supported by IPU findings, influence in party primaries has shifted dramatically towards actors who bear no responsibility for governing.

And since primary elections have a major place in our democracy and serve a crucial role, parties should not allow rabble-rousers, quacks, imposters and fraudsters to sail through past the nomination barrier.

According to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), party primaries are key because they test candidates’ abilities to excite voters, to campaign effectively within the law, force aspirants to refine their messages and prove their stamina.

IDEA further observes that if the nomination process is fraudulent, the exercise could lead to filling the highest offices with imposters, charlatans and masqueraders which is dangerous to democracy and good governance.

The long and short of it is that the nomination process should be about picking leaders who are beyond suspicion and who cannot be intimidated by the executive or “Deep State”. It is for this reason that party members should be given freedom to decide who should lead them in the next dispensation. This is the surest way to usher in strong and credible leadership.

In a nutshell, the nomination exercise should be above board with the main focus being nominating persons of high moral character and unquestionable integrity. 

-Mr Sossion is member of parliamentary committees on Education and Labour

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