The Citizen Handbook

The Constitution of Kenya, 2010: The People’s Power

Elections: Representation of the People

Role of Political Parties

A political party is an organization that provides an organized form of participation by people with similar views on political issues and activities. This is especially the case in elective politics, where the party generally aims to gain state power to influence government policy and legislation.

Features of a Political Party

The Constitution provides detailed guidelines and features on the formation of political parties. Article 91(1) of the Constitution states that every political party must:
 ·         have a national character;
 ·         have a democratically elected governing body;
 ·         promote and uphold national unity;
 ·         abide by the democratic principles of good governance and internal democracy through regular, free and fair party elections;
 ·         respect the political rights of all persons, including minorities and marginalized groups;
 ·         respect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and gender equality and equity;
 ·         promote the Constitution and the rule of law; and
 ·         subscribe to and observe political parties code of conduct.

Limits to Political Parties

Political parties are an important feature of the electoral system and the wider democratic process. They also can have a negative effect if their activity is without limits, which is why the Constitution outlines specific limitations on political parties. As such, Article 91(2) stipulates that political parties shall not:
 ·         be founded on a religious, linguistic, racial, ethnic, gender or regional basis or seek to engage in advocacy of hatred on any such basis;
 ·         engage in or encourage violence by, or intimidation of, its members, supporters, opponents or any other person;
 ·         establish or maintain a paramilitary force, militia or similar organisation;
 ·         engage in bribery or other forms of corruption; or
 ·         accept or use public resources to promote its interests or its candidates in elections, except where allowed under the Constitution or by statute.

Rights and Privileges

In addition to those provided for in the Constitution,The Political Parties Act, 2011 outlines specific rights and privileges for registered political parties. As such, Article 15(1) of the Act states that any registered political party is entitled to:
 ·         hold and address public meetings in any area in the country for the purposes of publicising the political party and recruiting members;
 ·         be provided protection and assistance from the State security agencies for the purposes of facilitating peaceful and orderly meetings; and
 ·         be provided fair opportunity by the State to present the political party's programmes to the public by ensuring equitable access to the State-owned media.

Restrictions on Public Officers

Public officers are limited in their participation in political parties. These limits intend to prevent conflicts of interest and favouritism. As such, Article 12(1) of The Political Parties Act, 2011 states that a public officer shall not:
 ·         be eligible to be a founding member of a political party (this does not apply to a sitting President, Deputy President, member of Parliament, governor or member of a county assembly);
 ·         be eligible to hold office in a political party;
 ·         engage in political activity that may compromise or be seen to compromise the political neutrality of that person’s office; or publicly indicate support for or opposition to any political party or candidate in an election.

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