The Double-Edged Sword that is Negotiated Democracy

Political parties have just concluded their nationwide party nominations process with negotiated democracy emerging as a consistent theme in the exercise. Some popular political hopefuls begrudgingly gave up their candidacy to support their competitors and new entrants following a decision reached by either their political parties or member parties of coalitions.

A good example is Westlands MP, Tim Wanyonyi dropping his pursuit of the Nairobi Gubernatorial position for Polycarp Igathe, a political novice who came into the limelight after deputizing former Nairobi Governor, Mike Sonko in 2017. Instead of running as an independent candidate, like other aspirants in his position typically do, Wanyonyi opted to run for another term as Westlands Member of Parliament.

The endorsement of Igathe by the Azimio la Umoja Coalition forced Wanyonyi to shelve his gubernatorial ambitions, something that would’ve been a milestone for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in political leadership. His story isn’t isolated. In Mombasa County, a similar decision was reached when businessman and philanthropist, Suleiman Shabhal gave up his gubernatorial ambitions and threw his weight behind Mvita MP, Abduldswamad Nassir who is taking a stab at the position. This decision brings to a screeching halt Shahbal’s ambitions for the county despite having consistently built towards it over the years.  

The direct ticket nomination by political parties is a calculated political move to strengthen their support bases in various regions in Kenya with the hope of securing as many wins as possible. These direct tickets are coming at the high cost of killing the dreams of hopefuls who’ve put in the work and built a solid track record in public leadership. Negotiated democracy is now finding a new face. While initially cultural structures of leadership would dictate how the politics would be run, coalition strategies are now informing the choice of candidates in their nomination processes.

An upside to this approach is that chaos and violence that emerges from highly contested party nomination processes has significantly reduced. In some cases, the process has favoured minorities and raised their chances of them making it into office. Kenya may mark a new milestone in the representation of women and youth in political leadership that could be an outcome of negotiated democracy.

However, the process is being considered by some as silencing the voice of the people and coalition leadership imposing on the electorate with their preferred choice. It is no wonder that a few who have ventured out as independent candidates in the past have ended up flooring those who ran on popular party tickets. A section of our SMS users felt that their voices weren’t heard within their party coalitions and the parties’ approach to the nominations wasn’t democratic.  

Are party coalitions proving that Kenyan politics are simply about securing a win and concentrating power rather than uniting to provide services and meet the needs of the people through shared ideologies? Are parties proving that a candidate's loyalty to the party and proven value-add to the party are not a key consideration in how this consensus is reached? Do political novices endorsed by party leaders really inspire the notion that the leadership on offer would be representative of the people?

Parties should conduct themselves in a manner that instils faith in their membership and their choices. The will of the membership ought to precede any other level of authority since political parties are vehicles through which political ideals and visions are brought to fruition.

Posted by Loise Mwakamba on April 26, 2022

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