Kenya: new bill on political party funding
With the passing of the long debated Bill on Political Parties on 27 September Kenyan parties could soon be funded by the state.
The new bill, which is yet to be approved by President Kibaki, provides for new regulation with regard to the funding and registration of parties. During the past 16 years several attempts have been made to adopt a Bill on Political Parties but with no success. In 2005, a regulation on political parties was also included in the proposed constitution which was rejected by referendum.
Although in-depth study into the details of the new bill is required the Kenya Centre for Multiparty Democracy welcomes this development.
“The enactment of the political parties bill is a significant step in Kenya’s democratic development,” says Ms Njeri Kabeberi, Executive Director of Kenya’s Centre for Multiparty Democracy. “It offers a legal framework for political parties to overcome recurrent management challenges and resource constraints. The law should be able to guarantee the growth of viable political parties capable of providing alternative ideological and policy choices through genuine participation of its members."
"The passage of the bill is important as it provided the space for the growth of political parties as public institutions with broad based ownership. While we have reservations about some provisions in the bill, we nevertheless welcome this development as essential in ensuring transparency and accountability in the registration, management, and funding of political parties.”
In future political parties will be funded from the Treasury. In the previous regulation there was no maximum to the budget which a party could raise or spend. In Kenya party membership fee is low and contributes only a small part of the party’s budget. Most of the budget is provided by party founders who use their positions to dictate the political agenda. Lack of regular and reliable sources of funding provides opportunities for corruption as political parties try to raise funds through questionable means. Moreover, unscrupulous politicians take advantage of high poverty rates and engage in voter bribery.
The new bill provides for a political parties fund, which is administered by a registrar. Parties will receive annual allocations by the minister of Finance. 80% of the fund is disbursed proportionately, based on the number of votes for the party in the last general elections, 15% is equally divided amongst all qualifying political parties and 5% is reserved for the administrative costs of the fund.
Reservations have been made concerning the provision that allows individuals to donate up to 5 million Shilling (approximately 54.500 euros) a year to a party and to reclaim a maximum of 1 million Shilling (approximately 10.800 euros) of their gifts in tax rebates. Analysts in the Business Daily Africa warn that this opens the door to corruption. Foreigners (governments and NGOs) are not allowed to sponsor individual parties.
Another part of the bill deals with the registration of parties. Until now a special law on political parties was absent. Parties were registered as associations under the Societies Act. Political parties had only to comply to their own set of rules. Internal democracy, accountability and transparency were not promoted.
Under the new law a powerful office of the Registrar of Political Parties will be established under the Electoral Commission. Parties need to meet tough conditions for registration. The party’s governing body must include members of all provinces and at least one third of the leadership positions is to be reserved for women. National membership and the diversity of Kenyan communities needs to be reflected if a party applies for registration.
Pre-election agreements need to be filed with the registrar of political parties to ensure that the covenants are respected after elections. Timelines are introduced, to prevent delay of registration for political reasons.
Furthermore, combative measures with the aim to end the culture of floor crossing will be introduced. Disrupting or suppressing lawful activities of other parties is prohibited and the practice of hiring gangs to disrupt rallies organised by competitors will be punished by a fine and/or detention.