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Move over parties, we are independent

In the run up to the 1992 General Election – when everyone was leaving Kanu for Kenneth Matiba’s Ford Asili, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s Ford Kenya or Mwai Kibaki’s DP – John Harun Mwau had a long-shot vision.

The former police sharp-shooter might as well have called it “Vision 2017” but settled for Party of Independent Candidates of Kenya (Pick). This week, 25 years later, The Boss (as he’s commonly referred to) must have been grinning from ear-to-ear as more than 4,000 men and women pushed and shoved at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission offices, seeking to be cleared to run as independent candidates in the August 8 General Election.

According to the Registrar of Political Parties, the number of independent candidates has increased more than tenfold from 350 in the 2013 election. It all started as trickle when a few aspirants disputed the results of the party primaries and quit their parties in a huff to run as independents.

As the nominations became more chaotic, the trickle grew into a flood which is threatening to wash away the political party system in Kenya. Tens of governor, hundreds of senator and MP and thousands of MCA wannabes have found refuge in the new ‘independence’ movement.

What’s more, for the first time since the 2010 Constitution allowed candidates to run for office without necessarily belonging to a political party, there are at least 10 independent presidential candidates.

While the independents were initially derided as sore losers, so strong is the movement that parties are beginning to sit up and take notice. Though the independent presidential candidates’ bid may be as long a shot as Mwau’s presidential candidacy in 1992, there are concerns that the next Parliament (both Houses) and county legislatures may have too many independent members for comfort.

And who knows, they might gang up against the big parties and form their own party. Or they can simply pick Mwau’s Pick.