Defections surge as Kenyan elections approach
Nearly half of Kenya’s parliamentarians are likely to defect to new political parties in order to run for re-election in the forthcoming August elections.
Ahead of the March 26 deadline for parties to submit membership lists to the Registrar of Political Parties, around 180 members of the National Assembly and Senate have officially switched loyalties from those who had sponsored them in the 2017 election, with the number projected to climb.
The country’s two-chamber national parliament has 416 members, including those selected to represent special interest groups like as youth, women, and persons with disabilities.
The political exodus has not spared the devolved administrations, with at least 15 of the 26 first-term County governors up for re-election this year switching parties.
To be eligible for the party ‘primaries’ in April, applicants for the different elected seats must confirm membership in a party by March 26 under the new rule established in February.
The legislation permits people who do not belong to a political party to run as independent candidates. Many of the lawmakers who have defected to new parties believe that the alternative tickets have the greatest chance of winning.
Furthermore, some people do not believe their parties will have fair primaries. Seasonal defections highlight the country’s difficulties with multiparty democracy. In the last four election cycles, no president has run or defended his position with the same party or alliance.
Kenyans will cast ballots in the seventh election held in the 30 years after the reinstatement of a multiparty political system. In 1982, the nation was designated a one-party state.
However, in the absence of compelling principles such as the free market and socialist doctrines, political organizations that have developed only for electioneering purposes have tended to remain weak over time.
Kanu, Ford Kenya, Ford Asili, and the Democratic Party, the top four parties in the 1992 general election, are a faint shell of their former selves.
Kanu, the independence party that gained 100 parliamentary seats under then-President Daniel arap Moi in 1992, now has just 10 seats in an enlarged National Assembly. Ford-Kenya is the only other party from that age, however its numbers have declined from 31 parliamentary seats in 1992 to 12 now.
In Kenya, political parties’ influence over the rank and file often pales among contrast to that of its founders, who are typically charismatic persons with cult-like followings in their bases, which are largely the country’s major five ethnic groupings.
With the advent of coalitions – typically ethnic alliances rapidly created as special purpose vehicles for the election – political parties have lately found themselves grappling for identity as well.
The vast majority of current defectors are switching allegiances to either the Azimio la Umoja coalition, which is affiliated with President Uhuru Kenyatta and his favored successor, Raila Odinga, or the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, which is headed by Deputy President William Ruto.
The two alliances were formed in the last two months.