Political parties is one of the pillars of democracy. Single party rule in Kenya was abolished in the early 1990s. The main reason was to promote freedom of speech and association. Like minded individuals were now free to gather and exchange ideas. Parties are meant to provide its members with a leadership platform. Multi party rule was established to satisfy the need for a strong independent opposition. Today we take a look at our political parties.

Parties are meant to promote freedom of association. However, it can be noted that they have divided Kenyans along tribal lines. The party leader usually determine which tribe the party would be associated with. This is the reason why ‘national’ parties can’t field candidates in some region. You are by default labelled a supporter of a party based on where you come from. Sometime it is dangerous to be associated or seen with anything that shows support for the region’s opposition party especially during the campaign season. The silver lining is the ballot. The choice is secret and anonymous which offers a sense of security and freedom.

Political parties are usually formed to consolidate support. As soon as they are formed, massive campaign is carried out in their leader’s strongholds. It is common to have parties with functional branches only in their stronghold (s) areas. This efforts makes it popular and regional leaders would want to be mentioned in the same sentence as the party. Standing against the popular party would be a political suicide. This kind of support is for the benefit of the party leader. This is also the reason why most parties lose their popularity as soon as its leader is done with it. This is because the leader would be leaving with the support he/she consolidated. This also illustrate that fact that parties are usually formed with election in mind. Case point is that apart from KANU no other party has ever retain power. Former president used NARC and PNU during his two terms. Our current president H.E Uhuru Kenyatta is seeking a second term on a different party.

Political parties are meant to promote freedom of speech. Open criticism of its leader or ways is usually considered as an act of sabotage. You will be labelled names and plans to remove and silent you would be set on motion. Your role as a member is to fight the party’s rivals. You are not supposed to point to the king’s nakedness. That’s why parties is filled with yes men and women. They have no stance of their own. If the party leader does act on an injustice within the party it would be swept under the rug. The party leader has too much influence and power because of weak internal structure. The amount of influence a member has depends on his/her closeness to it leader. Going against the wishes of the party leader is like going against the party.

The reasons why coalitions are formed is for parties to remain relevance and increase the odds of forming the government. A party that is in its popularity deathbed would enter into a coalition to give it a fighting chance. Coalition leaders would use their political parties as a bargaining chip during negotiations. Small parties would be used to accommodate the fallout in the main parties. This is done with the aim of protecting the presidential votes.

Our parties are under the heavy influence of its leader because of its weak internal structure. We can remove the tribal tag when we form parties based on values. Leaders need to promote the values that the party stands for and not themselves. This will ensures that the party survives its leader departure.

photo credit: diana_robinson <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/62501682@N00/32133349374″>Umbrella thorn acacia tree (Vachellia tortilis) at sunrise in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, East Africa</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;