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Separating myths from facts about Independent Candidates in Kenya.

An aerial view of the Kenyan National Assembly in progress.
Article 99, 137 and 193 of the Kenyan Constitution and the Elections Act in Section 22 to 30 provides for the post of the President, Senator, Member of National Assembly, County Representative and the Women representative.

Article 85 of the Constitution basically states that any person is eligible to stand as an Independent Candidate (IC) for election if the person is not a member of a registered political party and has not been a member for at least three months immediately before the date of the election. It also adds that there are other certain requirements depending on the elective post.

The rationale behind ICs was to expand the democratic space of the Country.

Roles of an IM.

The role of an Independent member (IM) of Parliament (or County Assembly) is no different from members of a legislature who is a party nominee only that they are not be limited by party discipline of course. All MPs, including IMs, have the same possibilities.

Please note, this is not the first time we are having ICs in parliament. The current parliament had four Members of Parliament were elected as ICs. They are; - Wesley Korir (Cherangany), Dr. Patrick Musimba (Kibwezi West), Gatobu Kinoti (Buuri) and John Serut (Mt. Elgon).

Just like their counterparts who are elected on parties, an IM of Parliament or a County Assembly, a person may not join a political party while in office without losing their seat and having to stand for election afresh – Article 103(1)(e)(ii).

Though the Constitution says there must be law defining “resigning from a party” it does not say there must be law saying what “joining a party” is! Would agreeing to vote with a party amount to joining a party? Probably not - but campaigning in elections for a party member might.

Previously, it has been appreciated that not every party formed can cater for the needs of all citizens. In Kenya, most voters are not members of any political party mostly because there are few parties or none of the parties have any ideology that defines them.

It is out of this that the constitution of Kenya provided for ICs to contest for various post in the elections, and to give options to the Kenyan voter to vote for individuals rather than party sponsored candidates.

Mature democracies.

In mature democracies ICs are regarded highly because they bring unbiased opinions on matters of national interest and this should be encouraged in Kenya since most ICs are highly qualified and are mainly from marginalized/disadvantaged groups.

Candidates, especially those who feel threatened of losing out in the general elections, are trying to justify the exclusion of independents on the basis of a need to strengthen political parties. Insinuating that the independents might hold the President at ransom and force him to agree to their demands is a blatant lie.

ICs are linked in a sense to political parties or at least to the ideology associated with a party as in the history of the Kenyan politics. After formation of assemblies, all these MPs, Senators and MCAs will go back to their political affiliations. Furthermore, nothing stops Parliament from running its affairs or the President to veto what he does not like as enshrined in the constitution.

The naked truth about this whole matter is that it violates the freedom of association (which includes the right not to associate) and interferes with the right to participate freely in the government of one’s country.

Rubber stamp MPs.

There is a general feeling among the electorate that there is little party democracy at present and some party candidates were thrust upon them by the party or its leaders. This might lead to voters electing feel an IC who is really local, is their choice and not the parties’.

There is also a school of thought which believes that the present parliamentary system is actually party-cracy, not democracy. The MPs cannot vote as per their own thinking or directives of the constituents. They have to dance to the tune of the party leaders in order to obtain party ticket in the next election. … MPs are really rubber stamps for the party leaders.

ICs give the people the possibility of participating in the governance of the country without being restricted by the limited imaginations of others, and on the basis of one’s own moral choices, which could be offered to the electorate. Some of our concerns are more local, and people would rather have a representative whose commitment is to those concerns rather than to a national party (for which read “leader”).

ICs and people's representation.

ICs makes it possible to bring out issues and policies affecting your people without having to have a whole party thinking on the same lines. It is good to note that majority of parties in Kenya are not about principles or policies but about personal advantage — of national leaders, and of those of the people.

The notion that independents seems must be linked to a desire to a particular person or divide is being spread by leaders who believe that their positions are at stake just to create fear among the electorate by branding ICs as the enemy of the nation.

Surely, Kenya is in serious need of people whose motivation to join politics is not just to attach themselves to ethnic leaders, and to “eat”, but people able and willing to use their own judgment and work for a better Kenya. It is not a secret that most parties are more of an obstacle than a support for people who have much to offer in the public service of being a legislator.

Elections are the only chance for the masses to dictate how and who should govern them. The constitution of Kenya provides for ICs to contest for various post in the elections, and to give options to the Kenyan voter to vote for individuals rather than party sponsored candidates.

ICs good for proper governance.

Genuinely ICs in both the Parliament and county assemblies, will offer a breath of political fresh air in our politics. These individuals will not have to toe party lines and submit to hero worship they will have their eyes on the ball; serving those who elected them. They will therefore have only one loyalty ... directly to the Kenya Citizen individual voter.

IMs can perform more effectively in what the Constitution describes as “exercising oversight” of the executive (Articles 95 and 96), than members who are closely tied to the executive through party membership. This is could be our solution to control corruption without depending upon the government in any way.

The thirst for independents is a protest may be a protest, or start out as one, but at the same time be a sign of hope that people care about their political system and want to be engaged. The party system has now largely abandoned the principles that once defined it and the ruling parties have almost become modified versions of a dominant neo-liberal economic ideology. Breaks in the dominant order are necessary for the reintroduction of genuine choice.

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