The office of Registrar of Political parties has received more than 1,000 applications for political parties since 2017.
Compared to only 22 registered parties in Tanzania and 26 in Uganda, Kenya sets the record with 72 fully registered political parties and six outfits currently underway to receive their full registration this year.
“Since the beginning of this year, we have had many applications of Kenyans wanting to register political parties. In this quarter alone over 50 Kenyans applied for the registration of political parties,” said Anne Nderitu, Registrar of Political Parties (RPP).
Although there is no set limit, a flood of parties on the political scene leads to dilution of politics with numerous outfits pushing their specific interests and representing just a fraction of the population.
“We ask them why they cannot join other existing political parties and the answer is always the same that they want to bring a different idea on how governance should be done,” said Ms Nderitu.
With political parties being “governance tools where people can be mobilised towards a particular agenda,” experts have criticised Kenyan political parties for lacking an ideological foundation, a sign of mature and progressive politics.
“Parties here are not about principles, they are not about ideologies, they are about personalities and groups trying to negotiate for power,” said Dr Francis Muchoki, senior lecturer at Catholic University.
“Most of the time we celebrate personalities and we move with them all the way,” said Ms Nderitu.
“My appeal has always been to political parties that they need an ideological position of their political engagement so that it can become the guiding light so that Kenyans and their supporters can come on board,” added the RPP.
However, she has commended the evolution of party politics, while paying specific attention to the role of mergers and coalitions in radically planting the seed for a different kind of politics.
In 2016, a merger of 11 small parties led to the formation of Jubilee Party of Kenya which delivered victory in the 2017 presidential elections. At the opposing end, a coalition was also formed between eight parties to give rise to the National Super Alliance (NASA) which came second.
“The direction should be thinking of coalitions instead of breaking political parties. That is more inclusive,” said the RPP.
She is of the opinion that coalitions and mergers will usher in a new political era and bring more people under one political ideology. “I think we must appreciate that from 2013 coming this way, we have appreciated the spirit of coalitions which is a bigger thing and we have seen parties that have survived since 2005. They may not be at the top but they still exist,” added RPP Nderitu.
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However, coalitions and mergers continue having their fair share of trouble including internal fractures prompted by personalities eyeing political careers.
Following the 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, NASA suffered a huge blow which led to its other principals - Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetangula and Kalonzo Musyoka teaming up with Knau leader Gideon Moi to form the One Kenya Alliance ahead of 2022 elections.
In Jubilee, a coalition that copied notes from China on creating a 100-year reign, faced another setback when President Kenyatta sidelined his Deputy William Ruto to work with Raila on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
The break-up has led to formation of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).