By K’onyango Ocheing Dennis
When the Orange Democratic Movement Party mobilizes its delegates to elect the next leaders of the party, can we, the party supporters expect anything short of an election?
The tragedy with the delegates system of conducting polls is that the whole thing is well choreographed. It is designed in such a way that the moneyed and influential rather than the popular candidates get elected, or selected for that matter. Of course the moneyed and the influential can also be popular.
Another tragedy of the delegates system is that the delegates abuse the mandate by the larger population. When they get to the polls grounds, they don’t represent the wishes of the larger society which elected them to that mandate but act on their interests. It is why the adult suffrage is still the best way to achieve the wishes of the people in an election.
The Orange party must aspire to the ideals of the democracy espoused by those in the mature Democracies. It had been anticipated that the Political parties fund should help to stabilize party democracy in Kenya but all signs point to the contrary.
As members of the Orange Democratic Movement, we had hoped that we would trail blaze on party democracy. Sadly, all we see is a sense of lethargy and lack of direction more so with the absence of the Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga in either of the chambers of the National Assembly.
That point illustrates another tragedy of our politics where political parties are synonymous with certain individuals, and, are as popular as those individuals. When such individuals begin to fade, or lose out, so are the parties.
Our parties have failed abjectly to enhance our participation in politics. Membership drives are never conducted and when it is ever done with the sole aim of complying with election requirements, the membership cards are dished out to anyone who happens by at a street corner where they are distributed. That explains the fiasco in the last elections where some people ended up being a member of multiple parties. Our parties are barren in terms of ideology. We join parties led by our tribes -men and make them tribal parties!
This tragedy complicates the place and role of the youthful Kenyan who would like to participate in the ODM elections. I am told the ODM party conducted an election of delegates four years ago. That has to be the year of 2010.
What that means is that a Kenyan lad who was fourteen then, is now eighteen years old and eligible to vote in an election. He is also eligible to run for a political seat. However, the lad cannot participate in the ODM elections because he is not a delegate. He cannot run for a seat for the same reason. He has been disenfranchised!
The ideal situation would be to conduct elections by adult suffrage. However, it has been argued that opening an election to adult suffrage would expose our party to manipulation by our rivals who would get a chance to mobilize their supporters to elect people they want and vote out Raila Odinga.
This to me is an excuse rather than a reason. In a democracy, participation in elections should be available to every adult and if anyone fears their rivals will manipulate the choice of leaders, at least they should conduct credible membership drives with serious vetting criteria to get members who are loyal who uphold the ideals of the party . Members who cannot trade their party’s ideals for a bribe!
I advance this argument because I am extremely angry that in spite of my age, political consciousness and maturity, level of intellectualism and awareness, I am not eligible to vote. A married Kenyan adult swaying opinion here and there cannot vote for Dikembe Disembe because I am not a delegate. I did not participate in the election of the delegates either. I am unrepresented, I am disenfranchised. It is ridiculous just as it is scandalous!
Dikembe Disembe is an extremely talented young man, the ideal secretary for publicity. He is the kind of guy who will formulate creative ideas to give a shot in the arm to ODM. Well, I am not sure he is a delegate since the last elections for delegates were done when he was in his first year at the university.
These problems would not happen if ODM did things differently. Eligibility to vote should be on the criteria of membership. Membership should be obtained upon application and a credible vetting process. The ODM should espouse their ideals in and a way that attracts membership across divides. More importantly, party should have liaison offices with digital systems so that recruitment of members is a continuous process.
Even assuming the delegates system is the best, it is scandalous that election of delegates is not a regular process. Since the year 2010, how many delegates have died? How many have been replaced? How many have defected to URP and TNA?
I don’t expect anything much from the elite group of privileged delegates who will gather at Kasarani to represent what I stand for. The exercise on 28th February, 2014 is a mockery of democracy. We have to learn to do things differently! Awacho ayueyo ( I have exercised my freedom of expression)!
K’onyango Ochieng Dennis is a practising lawyer and advocate of the High Court of Kenya.