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New political parties law tamed nomination chaos, says registrar

 Registrar of Political Parties Ann Nderitu addresses journalists at her office on March 29, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Political players have hailed the once-controversial Political Parties Amendment Act for delivering less chaotic nominations this year.

The law was contested by Deputy President William Ruto's allies in Parliament claiming it would give the Registrar of Political Parties undue powers.

The critics also feared an imperial registrar if the law was endorsed. After intense push and pull and name-calling between pro-government and pro-Ruto leaders over the Bill, it was eventually passed and enacted into law.

A section of agitated Kenyans went to court, which dismissed their petition by declaring that all processes were followed before the Bill was enacted.

Like the proverbial stone rejected by builders and later became the cornerstone, political players have now praised the new law for the less chaotic nominations and little or no fallout.

Today, the Registrar of Political Parties Ann Nderitu linked the new law to its success, and said unlike in 2017 and previous party primaries, this year’s nominations were transparent, disciplined and to a large extent represented the will of the people.

“Those who claimed the laws would make me a dictatorial registrar were informed by imaginary thinking. The laws have brought sanity and order in political parties,” Ms Nderitu said.

Satisfaction

The laws defined party nominations and offered new ways such as negotiated democracy, interviews or opinion polls.

The registrar noted that the majority of candidates from across the political divide were satisfied with the results.

“In the past, the only available mechanism was universal suffrage which was done at the whims of party owners. They conducted the exercise with opaqueness and secrecy without public involvement,” said Nderitu.

Under the law, assented into in January, political parties must publish their nomination process 10 days before the exercise, seek approval of the party’s register from the political parties registrar and seek certification of nomination rules and charges.

The political parties are now mandated to disclose the date, the venue and the elections board to the office of the registrar which is then uploaded on the website for scrutiny by aspirants.

“With the law, the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal is now almost idle while in 2017 there were more than 500 cases filed emanating from the party primaries. Jubilee had to cancel its exercise after the violence,” said Nderitu.

She also took pride in the digital reforms at her office that have made it easy for Kenyans to verify and resign if their names were uploaded to parties that they do not ascribe to, at the comfort of their phones.

“We are not only demanding political parties to be transparent but we are also helping them. The use of Integrated Political Parties Management System services (IPPMS) and Independent Candidates management system have brought services closer to the people,” noted the registrar.

According to the registrar, there are only 110 disputes filed at the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT) and none at the IEBC dispute resolution committee.

"In 2017, there were 350 disputes from political parties and the decisions of returning officers filed at the IEBC dispute resolution committee and another 306 disputes at the PPDT while in this year, there are none at IEBC and only 110 at PPDT even as there are an additional of 18 ad-hoc committee members at PPDT," said Nderitu.

She revealed that it was her office that came up with the law, but involved stakeholders before it was tabled in Parliament. “We are committed to institutionalising our political parties and we are glad that for the first time, nominations were free and fair," she said.

UDA Secretary-General Veronica Maina said the registrar's office sent officials to the ground and worked closely with IEBC to supervise the process.

“We conducted what I could describe as a mini general election like that conducted by IEBC since they are our big brothers who we look upon. We embarked on a selfless journey to implement our Constitution,” said Maina.

Win-win situation

She said there was good communication and planning that delivered ‘exemplary outcomes’.

Jubilee Party Director of Elections Kanini Kega also said the new law provided ways to avert cutthroat competition within political parties, which the ruling party took advantage of to avert fallouts.

“There are no fallouts in Jubilee and the provision of interviews and polls and consultations among candidates proved to be a very competitive process. The process created a win-win situation for all our candidates,” said the Kieni MP.

Jubilee Party Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni said the new law brought about the most peaceful party nominations.

“It is also least expensive and allowed economic activities to continue unlike in the past where such activities were brought to a standstill,” said Kioni.

"This system of consensus and negotiated democracy makes it difficult to end up with a criminal at the helm of leadership. There is no room to buy votes since other than voting there are so many things at play," said Kioni.

ODM Chairman John Mbadi also acknowledged the improvement of party primaries this year compared to other electoral cycles. But he called for harmonisation in supervising the exercise since some parties did not adhere to the law. 

"Some parties used the IEBC register and this does not create a level playing ground," said Mbadi.