Garissa — Claims of corruption and manipulation have riddled a number of Kenyan political parties for the manner in which candidates were selected during primaries held on January 17th and 18th.
During the exercise, only four of Kenya's 43 registered parties participated: the United Republican Party, The National Alliance party, the Orange Democratic Movement party (ODM) and the Wiper Democratic Movement party.
Political parties are responsible for carrying out primary nominations, but most lack the funding and proper structures needed to carry out the exercise objectively nationwide, said Martin Mutua, a journalist who covers politics for Kenya's The Standard newspaper.
"To conduct this exercise, the parties needed to have financial and material resources, which most parties could not afford." he said. "The staff needed to be paid and to buy poll materials, and since most [parties] could not [afford the expenses], they took shortcuts."
Conflicts of interest
Although the parties collect non-refundable fees from participating candidates to pay for the primaries, they are unable to raise adequate funds, Mutua said. In addition, some party officials involved in managing the exercise have direct conflicts of interest in the outcome.
"Running a genuine primary nationwide would run more than a billion shillings for a single political party and not many parties are willing to spend such an amount," Mutua said. To remedy this, he said the parties should contribute to a general fund to run their primaries.
Mutua said the anomalies and violence witnessed in several parts of the country during the primaries dampened the democratic process.
In Kisumu County, there were demonstrations over the ODM nomination of Prime Minister Raila Odinga's sister Ruth Adhiambo and in Siaya County over the nomination of Odinga's brother Oburu Odinga.
Demonstrations and acts of violence took place in other parts of the country as well. According to The Standard, a police officer in Baringo County gunned down a voter, triggering protests in Seguton ward. In Homa Bay, a former lawmaker was arrested for attempting to steal a ballot box and nomination papers. In addition, an aspirant for the Makongeni ward in Nairobi was stabbed in a scuffle as he struggled to get his nomination certificate.
Mutua said the events may point to a recurrence of violence similar to after the 2007 elections, which left more than 1,200 people dead and 300,000 displaced. Security forces should be on high alert, he said.
Candidates report 'direct nominations'
Omar Sheikh Ali said he was slated to vie for the ODM nomination for the Garissa Central parliamentary seat, but corruption prevented that.
"On the eve of the exercise, reports emerged that the only candidate I was to face in the primaries for the party ticket had been issued with a direct certificate [formal notice of party nominee]," he told Sabahi, adding that his opponent was granted the nomination even though both candidates paid a 150,000-shilling ($1,714) fee for the primaries.
Elizabeth Ongoro won the party primaries for a Nairobi senator position, but the formal party certificate was given to Margaret Wanjiru, who was not even in the contest.
As a means of compensation, ODM offered Ongoro the Ruaraka parliamentary seat, but she declined.
"My conscience will not serve me right if I take the position of the legitimate Ruaraka parliamentary seat nominee Tom Kanjwang," Ongoro told reporters in Nairobi.
ODM elections board chairman Franklin Bett said people aggrieved by the nomination exercise would be allowed to seek redress.
He told Sabahi that two party officials had been sacked after they conspired to receive bribes for issuing fake party certificates to candidates.
Njoroge Baiyia said he beat Chota Karanja in the primaries for The National Alliance nomination for the Githunguri parliamentary seat in Central Province, but Karanja was issued the nomination certificate regardless.
"We support democratic ideals," Baiyia told Sabahi. "I am surprised by the turn of events where the loser becomes the winner."
"Some party officials have preferred candidates from the offset. When they lose the nomination, the party officials try to sneak them through the backdoor," he said.
The National Alliance party chairman Johnson Sakaja told Sabahi that the party is working to resolve all disputes that arose during the primaries.
"While some disgruntled aspirants have gone to court and others filed complaints with the dispute and resolution committee at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the party has been able to conclusively determine some of the disputes [independently]," he said, adding that there are more than 200 cases still under review.
Elmi Mohammed, a retired political science lecturer at the University of Nairobi, told Sabahi that the fiasco experienced at the primaries should be a learning lesson for the future.
He said political parties need to do a better job at setting expectations with voters. "The date of the primaries was postponed more than three times and the parties did not make it clear whether only the party members or everyone would be involved in the voting," Mohammed said. "The scenario created confusion among voters."
The system should be changed in the future so that an independent body is charged with organising and conducting the primaries, he said. "Independent observers should be allowed to monitor to ensure the rules are followed and crowds should be discouraged from hanging around the polling stations," he said.