Saturday, September 13, 2008



SEPTEMBER 13, 2008
By Njoki Ndung’u

The internal dissent greeting ODM’s resolve to have its members sign performance contracts with the party reflects the inherent difficulties of enforcing organisational discipline within parties.

In principal, discipline is essential in any party claiming democracy. There must be internal instruments with which an organisation can instill desired order among its members. The rationale of having rules and regulations for a party is informed by an appreciation that left to their own ways, members would likely indulge in habits that may be injurious to its greater good. Indeed, many parties traditionally have a raft of dos and don’ts for their members in their internal constitutions that are unfortunately hardly employed.

The Political Parties Act 2006 is explicit in its requirement of parties to provide disciplinary measures against errant members in their constitutions.

The schedule to Section 19 compels them to give methods and procedures of suspension or expulsion from the party and the reasons for such actions.

These instruments must be vigorously exercised at all levels of the party structure. Section 17 of the Act has strong anti-defection laws which disallows a person to belong to more than one party, and prevent members of one political party from forming, joining, or in any way or manner, publicly advocating for the formation of another political party.

If they do, they are deemed to have resigned from their original party. For MPs in particular, this means losing their seat in Parliament and occasioning a by-election. Stringent application of the new rules ensures that MPs and councillors can no longer use parties as vehicles to get into office only to abandon the party that brought them there mid-way. The tendency for some members to skip their party meetings; fail to pay required subscriptions; contradict or ignore decisions made by their party organs; vigilantly speak out for other parties other than those that brought them into political office will ultimately get them into hot soup.

Political Parties Act

A dictionary definition of party discipline is "the ability of a political party to get its members to support the policies of the party leadership." It has also been described as "the controls that party leaders have over its legislative members." But in our local political set up dominated by structurally weak and personality-centered parties, how can this be effectively implemented? Who will be the referee in intra-party disputes where disciplinary issues are concerned?

The Political Parties Act provides for a tribunal, which shall determine disputes between the members of a political party. This tribunal is not yet in place due to the delay caused by the Chief Justice in making the necessary appointments. As trouble looms in ODM and PNU, there is urgent need for such an arbitrator.

In the interim, it will be left to the party leadership to determine what disciplinary measures should apply to an errant member.

Parties must resist the temptation to be guided by carrot-and-stick considerations that unfortunately primarily informed the disgraced efforts of the Okiki Amayo-led Kanu disciplinary team, which was essentially a witch-hunt and a fix-him outfit.