Kenya: Party Nomination Fiascos Good for Democracy
When I first tried to explain to a friend the concept of a political alternative in the face of a deepening crisis of capitalism in Kenya, my ideologically challenged listener was quick to interject that there were already too many political alternatives in Kenya as exemplified by the circuit of political parties that dotted the Kenyan political landscape. His rumble was that it was wrong to claim shortage of political alternatives in Kenya when the multi-party system (earned out of a protracted and bloody struggle by Kenyans) had resulted in the construction of 30 plus competing political parties.
Indeed, ODM, TNA, URP, UDF, PNU, KANU, FORD, SDP, KNC, POA, FORD-Kenya, Narc-Kenya, Ford-Asili, New Ford-Kenya, Wiper, Ford-People, PIC, KNC et al were all “political alternatives” that had mushroomed following the abolition of the single party dictatorship in July 1990. According to my good friend’s observation, a drastic development witnessed following the emergence of “political alternatives” was that KANU, a party whose autocratic leaders misruled Kenya for more than four decades, had been vanquished to open the way for an alternative Party to come to power in Kenya. What does this brief narrative got to do with the just concluded chaotic nominations across the country?
The nominations, rout with irregularities and undemocratic practices especially within the biggest political parties like ODM and TNA, has awoken Kenyans to the fact that as a solution to the social and economic crisis facing the country, the citizens may be banking their hopes on parties whose very foundations are built on sand regardless of the popularity of leaders at the helm of these parties. The corruption and subterfuge that has been exposed in the process of the nomination process has proved that the very parties that could come to power in Kenya could be more corrupt and incompetent than any party that has ever held power in Kenya. Surely, if nomination certificates could be sold to the highest bidder irrespective of who had won the nomination, what else could these parties do once in power?
The nomination mess witnessed live by Kenyans and documented by the watchful Media is good for Kenya’s national democratic process. This is because the multiple failures have increased the political consciousness of thinking Kenyans who have just awoken to the painful reality that the biggest political parties opposing the corrupt Coalition government headed by President Mwai Kibaki are themselves rotten from top to bottom.
The obvious explanation behind the chaotic nominations is that despite the vast political competition inherent in the new pluralist Kenya, there is no ideological bond that fuses contending members of these parties. A bigger lesson out of the nomination chaos is that politics in the multiparty order has been converted into big business, complete with bargains and price tags on political positions.
Nomination certificates were being sold to the highest bidders because both buyers and sellers have mutually embraced the commercialization of politics in Kenya. This tendency has reduced the electorate to sheer spectators whose votes are inconsequential in the face of wheeling and dealing in the mad rush to constitute the next corrupt political elite that will be looting the economy and dispensing impunity as the masses of the Kenyan people continue to suffer.
Losing candidates were declared winners because the conspiracies were hatched at the inner core level of the rotten party leaderships. Internal political competition between aspiring candidates (which is good for democracy) was thrown out of the window and favoured aspirants given direct nomination certificates because political foundations of the various parties are based on cronyism, nepotism and back-door conspiracies.
It is notable that where illegal and undemocratic decisions were taken, these decisions were only reversed when the electorate, the bed-rock of political support of any political party, openly rebelled in the streets and in a way that threatened to awaken millions of sleeping minds to the fact that the very leaders preaching change and transformation were actually a gang of corrupt liars whose democratic ideals had failed the test at the nomination level. As a cover-up to prevent rebellion, the leaderships quickly retreated to Board rooms to align their decisions on party candidates with the will of the electorate.
A bitter choice between a group of wolves and a pack of hyenas
Although Kenya has many political parties there is no real political alternative to the thieving capitalist class because political alternatives are based on ideas, not loyalties to individuals and cartels. The nomination failures are good for democracy because they helped a huge section of voters to realize that the angels they seem to be worshipping are actually wolves in sheep-skins. Although many political parties have availed themselves in the political market place, they are all the same in the sense that they are all ethnic-based, corrupt and nepotistic while none of them adhere to any known political ideology. Under this arrangement, the irony is that in the midst of apparent plenty to choose from, the alternative is fundamentally the same.
In summary, come the next elections, Kenyans will be choosing between a group of wolves on the one hand and a pack of hyenas on the other to sit in Parliament in the name of looking into the interests of 40 million plus Kenyans. Although the country is faced with an election, Kenyans are, in reality, faced with the task of choosing their next blood suckers who will be milking the national cow in their personal interests and living large in the name of democracy as millions starve to death.
In parenthesis, the political parties represent a sack full of rotten potatoes and what Kenyans will be doing come the next elections will be to select the least rotten potato that can be roasted on the fire of “free choice” for the democratic life of the Nation to continue. This is because at the end of the day, the country must have a government which must be chosen by the so called people. If the choices available are all rotten, and, faced with the reality that one of them must be chosen for Kenyans to eat from the pot of democracy, then the options are limited. At the moment, the only rotten but edible potato visible from the stinking sack is what has become known as Cord and it is for this reason that this Coalition is leading in the opinion polls. Kenyans seem to believe that they can chop off Cord’s rotten parts and have a good meal.
Although he is a member of Cord, very few Kenyans will deny the fact that Kalonzo Musyoka is one of the most rotten politicians in Kenya today. If the rotten Uhuruto potato is chosen, Kenya will be the first country in the world to elect suspects of crimes against humanity to power and the fear that the country might choke to death if this happens has filled the air.
Be that as it may, the nomination scams are good for Kenya because advances in democratic practice is a process and not an event. Apart from learning a few lessons out of the catastrophic failures during the nomination process, much bitter lessons await Kenyans regardless of the composition of the next government.
Going by the character of the current political parties operating without ideologies, there should be no over-expectation of what is possible from these parties. In fact, the nomination fiasco should serve as a warning shot ahead of the main crisis that will face any of the parties in the event of a power take-over.
To be specific, there is no party that is ideologically equipped to sort out the problem of unemployment, corruption, tribalism, homelessness, landlessness, high cost of living, insecurity, mass poverty, mass starvation, just to mention but a few. If these parties cannot deal with nomination of party members to vie for positions at various levels, how can they be expected to deal with the bigger problems facing the nation such as poverty, disease, exploitation and dependency on foreign aid?
The biggest gain that Kenyans might expect after the next election is the toppling of members of the Kikuyu ruling class from power after Kibaki’s ten years of misrule. Although the Kalenjin ruling class was toppled by the Kikuyu ruling class ten years ago, nothing has changed in the lives of millions of Kenyans. In fact, life has become more terrible, more frustrations have mounted while more Kenyans are dissatisfied with a reformed system that cannot deliver the basic necessities of life.