Independent Candidates in Kenyan Elections
Elections are the only chance for the masses to dictate who should govern them. In all democratic countries this is done periodically with an independent body acting as a referee to ensure that the wishes and aspirations of the citizens are met.
Many of these countries usually devise laws that require one to be a member of a political party that will then sponsor them in an election. This was meant to help sieve candidates at the party level, leaving the electorate to decide only on candidates who have been vetted by their respective parties. This move also ensured that there were only a few candidates at the ballot thus saving on logistics. This was considered ideal because everyone was presumed to belong to a party and its particular ideology.
In Kenya, there are many voters who are not members of any political party mostly because none of the parties available have an ideology that they can relate to. This recently changed when the 2010 Constitution provided the possibility for Independent Candidates to contest for the various elective posts as individuals rather than as party sponsored candidates.
Article 85 of the Constitution basically states that any person is eligible to stand as an Independent Candidate for election if the person is not a member of a registered political party and has not been a member for at least three months immediately before the date of the election. It also adds that there are other certain requirements depending on the elective post.
- For the President, according to Article 137, the Independent Candidate has to be nominated by at least 2000 voters from each County, for a majority of the Counties in Kenya.
- For the Governor, according to Article 180, the Independent Candidate must have qualified for election as a Member of the County Assembly.
- For a Member of the County Assembly, according to Article 193, the Independent Candidate must be supported by at least 500 registered voters in the relevant Ward.
- For a Senator, according to Article 99, the Independent Candidate must be supported by at least 2000 registered voters in the relevant County.
- For a Member of the National Assembly, according to Article 99, the Independent Candidate must be supported by at least 1000 registered voters in the relevant Constituency.
Under the Constitution, the Women’s Representative position is listed as being part of the National Assembly. So the requirements should be the same.
The Electoral Laws add a couple more provisions that the Independent Candidates need to adhere to.
- One must be a registered voter in the County, Constituency or Ward that they want to vie in
- The people nominating the Independent Candidate must themselves not be registered members of any political party.
- The Independent Candidate should not participate in any public fundraising or Harambee, whether directly or indirectly for 8 months prior to the General Elections, unless it is a fundraising for their campaigns.
The rationale behind Independent Candidates was to expand the democratic space of the Country. An important restriction such as requiring that the Independent Candidate not to have been a registered Member of any political party for at least 90 days before the election was put there to stop opportunistic candidates. Some of these candidates had already put themselves out there to run for office on a political party’s ticket, but when they got rejected at their party’s primaries, they still found a way to squeeze their names on to the ballot box by being an Independent Candidate.
Here are a couple more things to note when it comes to Independent Candidates.
- Just as a party is allowed to have agents at polling centers, the Independent Candidate is also allowed to appoint one agent per polling center. Agents are important because they help ensure that the elections are free and fair.
- An elected Independent Candidate’s seat becomes vacant if the individual joins a political party before their term ends.
It’s also important to note that the position of the President and the Governor are a bit tricky for the Independent Candidate, because in the case of an election win, the nature of these positions mean that in order for them to govern effectively, they would need the support of the Members of Parliament and the County Assembly, something which would be very difficult to do without the support of a political party.
As mentioned before, the rationale behind Independent Candidates was to expand the democratic space of the Country. Independent Candidates are regarded highly in mature democracies because of their ability to bring unbiased opinions on matters of national interest to the public space. This is a thing that should be encouraged in Kenya because many Independent Candidates tend to be highly qualified and to be from marginalized and disadvantaged groups.