African Press International (API)

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Parties to get cash – This will minimise involvement by corrupt westerners from influencing parties

Posted by African Press International on September 28, 2007

Publication Date: 9/28/2007

Political parties could soon be funded from the Treasury if President Kibaki approves a new Bill passed in Parliament yesterday.

Party supporters at a past political rally. Should the new Bill become law, MPs will have to give a two-week notice before defecting. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

However, for them to qualify, they must meet tough conditions. One states that for a party to qualify, at least a third of its national officials must be from either gender.

The Bill also provides tough rules to tame the culture of defections. It demands, among other requirements, that an MP intending to ditch a party shall give his party 14 days notice.

And if it becomes law, politicians who have been hiring gangs to disrupt rallies organised by their competitors will also pay a fine not exceeding Sh15,000, or face a jail term of not more than two years, or both.

Settle disputes

The Political Parties Bill, 2007, also seeks to establish a powerful Political Parties Disputes Registrar to settle disputes involving members of political parties and to resolve wrangles among coalition partners.

There will be a powerful office of the Registrar of Political Parties under the Electoral Commission of Kenya. Among other things, the registrar will ensure parties applying for registration reflect national membership and the diversity of Kenyan communities, do not have a religious slant, and also avoid using repugnant symbols or those of existing entities.

The Political Parties Bill has been on the agenda of Parliament for 16 years, but lapsed with every end of the life of the august House until yesterday.

Currently, Kenya has more than 300 registered political parties.

The ruling National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) rode to power in 2002 following what some leaders of affiliate parties claimed was a memorandum of understanding between President Kibaki and other key leaders in the coalition on how ministerial posts and other top positions in government were to be shared out. But a year later, the Liberal Democratic Party of Langata MP Raila Odinga walked out of the Government, saying it had been duped.

Such scenarios will be a thing of the past if the Bill becomes law. Parliaments departmental Committee on the Administration of Justice and Legal affairs introduced an amendment requiring parties to file any pre-election agreements with the registrar of political parties to ensure that the covenants are respected after the elections.

The clause says: Where two or more political parties resolve to form a coalition before or after an election, the instruments of the coalition agreement shall be deposited with the Registrar for the purposes of arbitration between the coalition parties.

Once the Bill becomes law, the minister for Finance will prepare annual allocations to the Political Parties Fund to be administered by the registrar. Fifteen per cent of the money in the fund will be distributed to all political parties that qualify, while 80 per cent will be disbursed proportionately by reference to the number of votes secured by each of the political parties at the previous parliamentary election. Five per cent of the money will be used to meet the administrative costs of the Fund.

And where a presidential candidate is supported by more than one political party, the Bill provides that only votes cast for parliamentary and civic candidates of the respective parties will be taken into account to determine the amount payable to the parties.

More than 30 MPs yesterday went into the committee of the whole House where they scrutinised the Bill. And in a rare show of unity, the members lamented about the confusion and personality cults that have in the past plagued political parties.

The MPs agreed that an individual should be allowed to contribute a maximum of Sh5 million to a political party in a year. However, foreigners are barred from funding political parties.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua and Gwassi MP Zaddock Syongo (Narc) moved amendments on behalf of the Government and the justice committee respectively.

Those present agreed on a number of amendments, save for the one seeking to compel the President to give his assent to the Bill within 90 days. Members were united in saying the Head of State should be allowed to exercise his executive powers of transforming Bills passed by Parliament into law. To ensure funds are not misused by political parties, the proposed law empowers the registrar to request the Director of Internal Audit to carry out an audit of the accounts of a political party at any time.

Parties already in existence must comply with the new law within six months once its date of effect is published.

System was abused

The Bill provides timelines for application for registration of political parties, effectively doing away with the current system where this is left to the discretion of the Registrar of Societies. Opposition leaders have in the past said that the system was abused by the Government to delay registration of parties deemed to be unfriendly to the Government.

The new Bill allows the registrar to issue provisional certificates of registration after receiving an application. A political party shall take not more than 180 days to apply for full registration.

However, a party that has been provisionally registered shall be entitled to address public meetings in any part of the country with assistance of State security. They shall also have equitable access to the State-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation television and radio stations.

There are also provisions to ensure probity in the way registered parties keep their financial records.

For example, once a party is registered, it shall submit a record on its assets and liabilities to the registrar within 90 days. And they shall, within 90 days after participating in a General Election, submit a detailed statement of all expenditure on each candidate it sponsored.

Lifted and published by Korir, API*APN

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