The just-concluded ODM grassroots elections once again raised pertinent questions about political parties’ commitments to democratic ideals? Political parties play an important role in furthering the course of democracy and good governance. It, therefore, follows that a country that does not have a strong and vibrant parties, would rarely succeed in uniting its people and realising its development agenda, among other goals.
In Kenya, statistics show that dozens of political parties have sprouted since the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in 1992. The National Alliance and the Orange Democratic Movement are the two most popular parties.
As an observer, the ODM grassroots election drew my attention. The exercise, which took place in selected counties (read ODM strongholds)had earlier been postponed at least two times.
Every time this happened, the party’s National Election Board would come out to defend the decision arguing that they needed more time to plan and prepare for the exercise because the purpose of the elections was to ensure ODM emerged stronger.
The party is the leading Opposition outfit because it has continued to uphold democracy and good governance. But does the party leadership believe in these virtues? The recent widespread violence that marred the exercise raises doubt whether ODM is serious in upholding these ideals.
In Migori county, for instance, it was reported that three people died though ODM denied the deaths were linked to the polls. This, however, contradicted reports that goons were hired by politicians from the county to cause chaos. It also claimed a number of those who ‘won’ the seats were not elected democratically.
They were either picked through consensus, acclamation or some just declared themselves ‘winners’ while surrounded by armed goons. The violence is reminiscent of the bungled party election at Kasarani gymnasium where the infamous Men in Black raised hell.
As Kenyans, we should blame ourselves because we have allowed politicians to colonise our minds. Because we fail to question their decisions, they take us for a ride. Contrary to perceptions created by some commentators, particularly those I worked with in the civil society, I’m not a sycophant.
I do not hold brief for the Jubilee coalition or any other political outfit. It is not in doubt that many political parties in Kenya are yet to hold internal elections because they fear the exercise would lead to a fallout and possibly disintegration. Despite the incidents of violence, ODM deserves a pat on the back.
The party came out boldly to undertake the exercise despite the risks involved. Notably, there is no shortcut for a party that believes in democracy and public participation.
Such an outfit must hold internal elections and ensure all registered members are involved. Finally, I’m sure those who followed the ODM grassroots elections will conclude that we still have a long way to go before we mature politically. The writer is a social commentator, political analyst and blogger