Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Political parties must redefine their roles instead of focusing only on Power

Despite having numerous political parties since the reintroduction of multiparty politics, 18 years a go, majority of Kenyans do not understand their policy frameworks. The actual ideologies for the existing parties have been a mirage. In fact, it’s only during campaigns that many of the parties come up with manifestos which tend to promise a lot but they are not solidly entrenched in their policy frameworks. In the Western world, citizens are well versed with party ideologies. Before thinking about the candidate, they already understand what the party stands for on issues like: economy, Medicare, taxation, security and foreign affairs. These are standards that our parties must emulate to conduct their business. It’s up to them; parties to tell Kenyans why they exist, what is unique about them, what they want, what they stand for and what Kenyans are likely to experience when they take over government. Without a well defined ideology and value system, it will be hard to ensure strong political party systems. The dominant issues in most of the parties since 1992 are about general elections, the presidency and succession. This is the reason behind the many defections that we have seen from our national leaders including the latest defection of President Mwai Kibaki from a party he founded 18 years a go- the Democratic Party (DP) to Party of National Unity (PNU); an infantry outfit crafted to catapult his presidential re-election just last year. We want to see sanity on the way parties run their affairs especially after the implementation of the political parties’ Bill. Our leaders should desist from using parties as mere vehicles for political power. Political parties in a democracy should not focus only in producing a president or many MPs in an election but also strive to encourage debate through civic participation in national affairs, strengthening politics of issues and ideas that enhance human rights, economic growth as well as empowering vulnerable members of the society. They must be instruments of better governance, ventilators and interpreters of government policies to the general public as well as checking the excesses of the executive. They must also ensure a functional, judiciary, parliament and a checked executive. They also need to ensure prevalent of a competent electoral system, free press as well as working to improve the standard of living for the Kenyan people. Besides, they should build partnerships with the civil society to accelerate required changes in the Country. This is the only way that citizens will yearn to participate in political party activism as well as identifying themselves with parties of choice. It’s tragic that the parties we have today have always looked national but they are ever dogged with tribalism and nepotism. Alignments and realignments and struggle for power are the order of the day. In the just concluded party elections, there was lack of balance in national officials. Women, youth, persons with disabilities were not properly represented in the leadership structure. Lack of diversity, accommodation and inclusivity in political party leadership dents the policy frameworks of political parties. It’s through accommodating diverse groups that a party is able to build a broad based policy structure that reflects the aspirations of the entire nation. This is a question that we need to ask: do the recently elected party leaders have the conviction, courage, credibility, and character to steer the parties forward in the 21st Century by injecting into them new ideas that will keep these parties a float even when these leaders are gone? Conducting national elections is not the end of the road for political parties. Now that they are set to operate under the new rules in the political parties Bill, Kenyans want to see their uniqueness so that that they can identify themselves with those whose policies reflect their aspirations. Courtesy of the implementation of the political parties’ Bill, we expect firm operational mechanisms centred on party independence and freedom of interference by politicians. The recent recall of former South African president; Tabo Mbeki by the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) reflected a positive step in respecting the independence of political parties in Africa .
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