Recent post by Chris: Kumekucha's warning to those seeking political office in 2012
Guest Post : By Michael Mwaura.
President Obama, revered here by some and disdainfully dismissed by others, had this to say about his Republican rival during his campaign for the presidency, “You know, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig”. This was in reference to the policies being offered by Senator McCain being similar to those of President Bush, thus implying that a vote for McCain was actually a perpetuation of the old regime.
The above quote aptly mirrors the goings on of our political parties here at home. Re-branding is the buzz word. Recently our Vice President changed the name of his political party to Wiper Democratic Movement from ODM-Kenya. Reason being, he did not want confusion at the ballot box with people intent on voting for him, voting for ODM instead. He changed his symbol from one and a half oranges to an umbrella. I think an appropriate symbol would have been an old rag or some baby wipes in keeping with his ‘Wiper’ name.
Next, the Finance minister proposed changing his party from KANU (Kenya African National Union) to KANU (Kenya Alliance National Union) How clever! I can clearly picture the everyday voter discerning the difference. Our good professor has also has been busy. He held a recruitment drive on a day after a major holiday. How well attended was this affair? We can only hazard a guess. A central theme runs through all these shenanigans being marketed as re-branding. They are still the same wolves whatever they decide to call themselves. And they want to be put in charge of the hen house called Kenya. I can positively predict that none of the chickens will make it to market.
What ails political parties?
-All are devoid of manifestos addressing the genuine concerns of the citizen. Most manifestos, if they have one, are drafted by lawyers. They are wordy yet say nothing.
-All political parties thrive on the whims of their founder. Remove the founder and that party is rudderless or dies immediately.
-All parties are detached from the grassroots. In the cases cited above, they all opened their secretariats in Lavington or thereabouts. How is the voter in the far flung areas of our country supposed to interact with their party? Well, an answer to that would be, “I will fly in on my chopper two months to election time and then its bye until the next election cycle”.
-All political parties treat campaigns as carnivals. Politicians doing road shows like aging rock stars, atop a truck, music blaring, looking pathetic trying to do the jig in vogue, dishing out blankets and cash. This does not add any value to their campaign nor does it help voters make informed decisions. This is but a tiny fraction of the ills that plague our political parties and our politics in general.
What way forward?
-We propose manifestos be prepared with the input of those they hope to represent. This can be done through informal polling using samples. The benefit of this is that we can hold politicians accountable when they take positions contrary to our wishes and demands.
-We propose political parties be structured like corporations. That way they are free of personal influences and can thrive and grow long after their founders have departed.
-We propose that political parties have a permanent presence at the grassroots. This will enable party members to interact frequently with their party and party officials can disseminate party policy more effectively.
-We propose a different method of campaigning. How about town hall style meetings? Potential candidates can make their pitch and voters can voice their opinions in a back and forth type of interaction. How about televised debates for presidential candidates like those held in North America? This would help voters differentiate the dunce from the well informed as regards their grasp of topics, ranging from the important such as the economy to the mundane such as how do we get our people to adopt a different staple food.
Lastly, and this may be contentious, I don’t think social media such as face book or twitter will any add any significant numbers to any candidates tally. I won’t defend this position, it just is so.
Comments are most heartily welcome. Please keep them civil and on course. I am sure African Teacher will not miss this opportunity to give us the unabridged version of the ‘The history of politics’.
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