Losers at Party Primaries should not be allowed to run as independent candidates

The huge number of individuals running as independent candidates in this year’s general elections is worrying. As has been noted, the reason we have political parties is so that people willing to put themselves up for electoral position can be limited to a manageable level. However, we are in the 2010 constitution era which allows for candidates to run as independents – with independents being defined as individuals who are not affiliated to any political party.

The spirit of no-party-affiliation as the definition of independent candidature is however not being respected in the on-going electoral process where those who have lost in the party primaries are being allowed to register as independent candidates. The loophole these party losers are using is the requirement that an individual can register as an independent candidate as long as he or she is not a member of a political party at least three months before the general elections – and since the party primaries were held slightly over three months to the general elections, those who lost in the primaries still found a way of running for the elections as independent candidates.

The reason why the party losers should be barred from running in the general elections is simple – the voters have already rejected them. Someone may argue that this is is a lame point given the fraudulent nature with which the party primaries were conducted – which imply that a number of peoples’ preferred candidates were locked out of the primaries with party sycophants being given the party certificates at the expense of those who truly won. I have a close friend who won the ODM nominations to vie for the seat of MCA, but his certificate was finally handed to another person who is claimed to have paid ODM elections board a hefty bribe. This alone should make me side with those who say losers should be allowed to vie either in other parties or as independents.

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Two other cases come to mind. In the 2012 ODM primaries, Okoth Obado was unfairly treated when the ODM certificate was handed to someone who had lost. Okoth went ahead to vie for Migori governorship under PDP and won. The same happened in Muhoroni constituency when Prof Ayiecho Olweny was awarded the certificate yet his opponent, Onyango K’Oyoo, had won. K’Oyoo also decided to vie for the MP post under PDP, and he won.

Today, losers in party primaries are unable to vie for elections in different parties, as the party hoping law is already in place. The party hoping law bars individuals from moving to different parties 90 days to the general elections. This is why the losers in the party primaries, instead of hoping to other friendly parties, decided to run as independents.

Allowing losers in party primaries to run as independent candidates is an abuse of the spirit of independent candidature. When the drafters of the 2010 constitution including the clauses of independent candidature in the constitution, what they had in mind are those like me who do not subscribe to any party ideologies – those like Boniface Mwangi who rightly reason that the existing parties do not have the political will to effect the much needed changes that can propel this country forward.

Boniface Mwangi decided long long ago to vie for the Starehe parliamentary seat – way long before the logistics to conduct any party primaries were put in place. Thus, if the spirit of the independent candidature were to be upheld, then all those vying for any political office as independent candidates ought to have done so at around the same time Boniface Mwangi declared his independent candidature.

But what we have today are people like Kabogo, Peter Kenneth, and Mbugua of Jubilee, Ochilo Ayako, Ranguma, and Magwanga of ODM, declaring that they will vie for the Governorship of Kiambu, Nairobi, Nakuru, Migori, Kisumu and Homabay counties respectively for the sole reason that they lost, unfairly or otherwise, in the just concluded Jubilee and ODM party primaries. These people are not independents – they are disgruntled members of Jubilee and ODM parties respectively.

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There are hundreds of other similar individuals vying as independents for the MCA posts across the country.

The fact that the party losers are not independents was revealed over the weekend when losers of Jubilee primaries led by William Kabogo and Peter Kenneth gathered at Kasarani to launch their Kenya Alliance of Independent Candidates coalition, a coalition that reiterated their support for the reelection of President Uhuru Kenyatta. If this alliance was indeed an alliance of independent candidates, then they should have endorsed one of the Independent candidates vying for presidency – and they are quite a number.

KAIC is therefore another abuse of the spirit of independent candidature – as – as already been explained – independent candidacy ought to be a candidacy only for those who do not align themselves with any existing party ideologies. To bar abuse of the spirit of independent candidature therefore, the elections law ought to be amended to state that independent candidates are required to register their interests to vie for any electoral position at least one month before party primaries.

After elections laws barring party losers from vying as independents candidates are implemented, the next question that ought to be addressed is how to deal with party nomination losers. To bar party losers from hoping to another party, the laws should state that no person, after loosing in party primaries, can move to another party prior to the general elections.

To deal with unfair party nomination loses, the elections law should be amended to require that party primaries are done over a period of 3 months – and should end at least six months before the general elections. The three months immediately after the party nominations should be dedicated to addressing all issues raised by party nomination losers at the political party tribunal and at the courts of law respectively.

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The timeline for the entire elections process would thus be as follows:

  • Ten months to the general elections will have all those who want to run as independent candidates submitting their interests to IEBC. All those who feel that they should hop from one party to another can also use this time to change parties.
  • Between nine months and six months to the general elections, political parties will conduct their primaries across the country. This will allow them time to effectively plan and conduct proper party primaries, including being able to address any nomination complains in a satisfactory manner.
  • Between six months and three months to the general elections, political party tribunals and courts of law will attend to and resolve all nomination issues that were not resolved by the political parties’ elections boards.
  • Three months to the general elections, IEBC will gazette names of all political office seekers in readiness for printing the ballot papers. Once the names are gazetted, the country opens up for the official campaigns period.

If for any reason anyone is still dissatisfied with his/her loss after all avenues to address the grievances have been exhausted, then the person will have no choice but to either keep quiet or drum up support for the winner. If the above suggestions are taken up and implemented, we should all expect to see a better well organised 2022 party primaries and general elections.

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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