We must change how we conduct primaries

Friday April 21 2017

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The nomination fiasco that has characterised primary elections this past week has clearly demolished any myth that parties can conduct any meaningful poll.

First, it was ODM nominations which exhibited all the characteristics of chaos, violence and confusion.

And today, Jubilee’s primaries were a monumental disaster.

Things went awfully wrong, forcing the party headquarters to cancel all elections carried out today.


In many places, voting started late due to late delivery of the ballot boxes, missing names of voters and candidates and poor logistical arrangement.

ODM and Jubilee are the major parties with mass following.

When they fail to conduct their nominations properly, the message is that political outfits are a mess.

But this is not surprising. We have not developed serious political parties; what we have are vehicles for contesting political seats and which are trashed immediately the objective is achieved.

Parties are individual outfits without proper structures.


They do not have branches and offices at the branches other than ad hoc groups that come in during elections.

None of the parties have validly elected officials.

Essentially, they do not have organisational capacity to conduct elections.

When parties fail the democracy test, as they have done so far, they lose legitimacy to govern a nation.

And this leads to a more fundamental question: how should we organise our elections?

Must the primaries be done within just two weeks? Why can’t they be staggered?

First, there is the constitutional question requiring that all elections must be done in one day.


Arising out of that, the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) prepares schedules that compel parties to conduct their elections within specific timelines. This has proved unworkable.

Second is the role of the Registrar of Political Parties — the regulator — which should superintend the way parties operate and ensure they have capacity to deliver on their mandates.

We must critically rethink the role of parties in conducting primaries because they cannot.

Electoral laws and practice must be reviewed to provide for effective mechanism for primaries.