Why the Fuss Over Party Primaries?

Tensions remain high as the country conducts party primaries. The primaries have been marred by logistical issues and allegations of irregularities. Preliminary findings from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) on the ongoing process of political party nominations points to a worrying a trend. KNCHR has received information on incidences of violence meted to aspirants and their supporters, alleged kidnapping and murder threats on aspirants.

Why the fuss over party primaries?

Political party primaries are a starting point for Kenyans to begin choosing their leaders. Statistics from the previous General Elections reveal that between 70 to 80 percent of aspirants from major political parties in their respective strongholds, those whom party nominated were successfully elected. This perhaps explains why aspirants would do practically anything to clinch nomination certificates in their party strongholds.

How the party primaries are conducted matters a lot. Nominations ahead of the 2013 General Elections left a lot of bitterness and last-minute defections. Evidence of poor handling of the nomination process can be seen in the many disputes filed with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Tribunal to resolve alleged nomination malpractices by parties and candidates. Due to time constraints, the Tribunal wasn’t able to dispense its role effectively.

The script appears to have not changed. Nothing justifies the chaotic state of the primaries. Political parties were aware of the nomination timelines; they thus have a responsibility of ensuring that the nominations are conducted in free and fair manner. The logistical nightmare witnessed in the Friday primaries should not be excused. I applaud IEBC’s decision not to extend the nomination deadline.

Safeguarding the integrity and right to vote and participate in the electoral process begins with ensuring free and fair party primaries. Political parties have a responsibility to ensure transparency and integrity in the political party nomination process. I hope parties will meet the May 10th deadline to resolve disputes arising their primaries.

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