More than 400 new political parties have applied for registration, signalling the high stakes in the next elections to pick President Uhuru Kenyatta’s successor.
Bitter exchanges between Deputy President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga are a pointer to the expected fierce campaigns for the 2002 General Election.
The huge number of applications also points to the power games, political skulduggery and a scheme to cash in on the aggressive competition expected to attend the high-stakes polls to elect the fifth president.
The Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) has been a beehive of activity, what with a staggering 405 applications to process in less than two years to the next polls.
Already, the political landscape is crowded, with 83 parties registered by last Monday and another seven awaiting full registration, according to official records from the ORPP.
The seven provisionally registered political parties include Kenya Moja People’s Party (KMPP), African Development Congress (ADC), Umoja Summit Party (USP), National Reconstruction Alliance (NRA), Party for Growth and Prosperity (PGP), Entrust Pioneer Political Party (EPPP) and Party for Peace and Democracy (PPD).
The law bars a political party that has been provisionally registered from participating in an election.
With funding from the exchequer out of reach for the majority of the parties since access is pegged on performance in previous elections, experts say state funding could not be the reason behind the avalanche of new parties.
Instead, the applicants could be angling for cash from aspirants and sponsors. The owners of the new outfits, the experts add, could also be seeking artificial popularity or keen to ensure they have a fall-back plan in case their current parties don’t sponsor them at the next polls.
Governance expert Barasa Nyukuri argues the rush to register parties is motivated by the allure of nomination fees from would-be candidates in the usually hectic primaries.
Mr Nyukuri also noted that some powerful politicians could be strategically registering many parties that would, at some point, rally around the beneficiary to portray them as popular.
Jubilee Party was formed following the merger of 11 small parties. Coalitions are expected in the next elections with a faction allied to President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga openly speaking out about a broad-based alliance. Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe has declared that Kenyans should prepare for Odinga’s presidency.
Dr Ruto’s allies have said they are exploring other options away from the ruling party, with Jubilee deputy secretary-general Caleb Kositany saying this week if Parliament were dissolved he would lead Tangatanga allied MPs to defect to other parties.
Some parties, Mr Nyukuri says, could serve as insurance in case their sponsors are short-changed or find the competition stiff in their current outfits.
“I know of many Jubilee and ODM members, some serving in various leadership positions, who strategically own political parties,” Mr Nyukuri said.
It will, however, not be smooth sailing for the applicants.
Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu said only parties that meet the demands of the law would be registered.
“The law exists to ensure that every political party has a national character, as prescribed by an Act of Parliament. This includes having a democratically elected governing body. It must also promote and uphold national unity,” Ms Nderitu told the Nation.
The Constitution is clear that parties must abide by the principles of good governance and hold regular, free and fair elections.
Section 5 (2) of the Political Parties Act provides that once an application for registration has been made, the registrar shall, within 30 days of fulfilling the conditions set, issue the applying entity with a certificate of provisional registration.
A political party that has been provisionally registered shall within 180 days apply to the registrar for full registration.
“The registrar shall, within seven days of receipt of the application, publish a notice in the Gazette and in at least two newspapers having nationwide circulation, inviting objections from any person or any other political party,” the Act says.
Objections could be on the name, symbol, colour of the party or any other issue relating to the registration of the political party.
It is this provision the registrar invoked to reject an attempt to register Jubilee Asili, which had been popularised by a faction within the ruling party allied to Dr Ruto.
Mr James Simiyu had applied to reserve and subsequently register the name as a political party, but Ms Nderitu ruled the suggested name was not in compliance with section 8 of the Political Parties Act, 2011.
The provisional registration lapses if full registration has not been sought at the expiry of 180 days from the date it was issued. It also lapses if application for full registration is rejected.