On Thursday, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (“Amendment Act”). Following an acrimonious debate in the National Assembly, the Senate on Wednesday, January 26, passed the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021, without any amendments.
The new law now sets the stage for registration of coalition political parties such as Raila’s Azimio la Umoja Movement, Kalonzo’s One Kenya Alliance, and Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza. The fundamental object of the Amendment Act is to amend the Political Parties Act, 2011. Below are some of the critical changes that the new law has introduced.
Coalition political parties
Under definition of the Amendment Act, a coalition political party has been defined as a coalition that the Registrar registers as a political party. As part of the registration process, a coalition political party will be required to submit a coalition agreement with the Registrar before issuance of a certificate of registration. Members intending to register a coalition political party have until February 9, 2022, to comply with the registration requirement. The timeline is set at least six months before the General Election. The coalition agreement will also determine how monies from the Political Parties Fund will be distributed to the members by the Registrar.
The Amendment Act forbids a member of a coalition from being a member of another coalition.
The Political Parties Disputes Tribunal will lack jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes between members of a coalition political party. Any grievances or disputes between members will be dealt with according to the internal dispute resolution mechanisms provided under the coalition agreement with the option to appeal to the High Court and the Court Appeal.
Roles and functions of political parties
The Amendment Act has introduced a set of roles and functions to be carried out by a political party. These include:
- Recruitment and enlisting of members
- Nomination of candidates for elections
- Promotion of representation in Parliament and county assemblies of women, persons with disabilities, youth, ethnic and other minorities, and marginalized communities
- Sensitization of the public on the functioning of the political and electoral system
- Promotion and enhancement of national unity
- Mobilization of citizens into participating in political decisions
- Solicitation and articulation of public policy priorities as identified by its members
- Shaping and influencing public policy
Political parties will now conduct party nominations through the direct party nomination method or the indirect party nomination method. A direct party nomination is a process by which a political party, through its registered members, elects its candidates for an election. On the other hand, an indirect party nomination is a process by which a political party selects its candidates for an election through the use of delegates selected from registered members of the political party and interviews.
Only registered members of a political party will be entitled to participate in party nominations. A political party that intends to conduct political party nominations must apply in writing to the Registrar for a certified copy of the register of members at least 21 days before the date of the nominations. With party primaries scheduled between April 16 to 22, 2022, parties have at least two months to put their membership registers in order.
The Registrar is empowered to regulate the conduct of party nominations, certify nomination rules of a political party, certify political party membership lists and certify party lists. In addition, the Amendment Act empowers the Registrar to make regulations prescribing the manner of conducting political party nominations.
Distribution formula from the Political Parties Fund
The Amendment Act introduces a new formula for sharing of funds amongst political parties as below:
- 75% of the monies will be shared out proportionately based on each political party’s total number of votes garnered in the preceding General Election.
- 15% of the monies will be shared out proportionately to political parties based on the number of political party candidates from special interest groups elected in the preceding General Election.
- 10% of the monies will be shared proportionately to political parties based on the total number of representatives from the political party elected in the preceding General Election.
- 5% of the monies will go towards the Fund’s administrative expenses.
The requirement to obtain consent before enlisting party members
To cure the recent complaints regarding enlisting of Kenyans as party members without seeking their consent, the Amendment Act makes it an offence for a person to enlist another without obtaining their consent. It, however, fails to specify the sanctions applicable to such offenses.
In the coming days, it is expected that political actors will take advantage of the recently enacted law to further their political interests, particularly with registering coalition political parties. Given the political sentiments raised by UDA-allied Members of Parliament threatening to challenge the constitutionality of some of the provisions of the Amendment Act in court, it remains to be seen how the new law will be applied.