The rationale behind Kenya’s public funding of political parties
Kenya just like other progressive democracies has put in place legal and regulatory frameworks for funding of political parties. Among the legal and regulatory frameworks include the Kenyan Constitution of 2010, Political Party Act, 2011, and Election Campaign Finance Act, 2013. For this article, our focus will be on the Political party Act, 2011 which provides the institutional, legal and regulatory framework for registration, regulation and funding of political parties in Kenya.
The Act clearly stipulates legal sources of political party financing, rationale behind government funding of political parties among others.
Sources of the funds for political parties as per the act are: a) Political parties fund-funded by the state; b) membership fees; c) voluntary contributions from a lawful source; d) donations, bequests and grants from any other lawful source, not being from a non-citizen, foreign government, inter-governmental or non-governmental organisation; and e) the proceeds of any investment, project or undertaking in which the political party has an interest.
It is important to note that before the Political Parties Act 2007 established the Political Parties Fund funded by the State. The major sources of finance for political parties in Kenya were members’ contributions, donations from well-wishers and fund raising activities. These sources are important, why? Because they demonstrate that political parties are rooted in society and engage with their members as much as possible instead of being dependent predominantly on state funding.
The fund has however been retained in the Political Parties Act 2011. The goal of the fund is to assist political parties to fulfil their roles in a democratic society, especially in non-election periods. It includes such funding purposes as:
- promoting the representation in parliament and in the county assemblies of women, persons with disabilities, youth, ethnic and other minorities and marginalised communities;
- promoting active participation by individual citizens in political life;
- covering the election expenses of the political party and the broadcasting of the policies of the political party;
- the organisation by the political party of civic education in democracy and other electoral processes;
- bringing the political party’s influence to bear on the shaping of public opinion; and
- administrative and staff expenses of the political party which shall not be more than thirty per cent of the moneys allocated to the political party.
Eligibility for receiving state funding.
Not all fully registered political parties are eligible to receive funding. A political party must meet the following requirements before it qualifies to access the funds: Secure at least five percent of the total number of votes at the preceding general elections, or promote affirmative action in the sense that no more than two-thirds of its registered office bearers are of the same gender.
The political parties fund promotes accountability, transparency, and fair competition between parties. This in essence is aimed to curb corrupt practices while promoting several constitutional and enshrined rights.
Although Kenya has put in place a legal and regulatory framework for funding of political parties, in line with Article 7.3 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which calls on states to take appropriate legislative and administrative measures to enhance transparency in the funding of candidatures for elected public office and political parties. More still is desired when it comes to effective enforcement of the legal and regulatory frameworks. In the next edition of Secrets Known, we shall cover how the implementation of some these legal and regulatory frameworks are proving challenging. How can the Kenyan government ensure that they effectively implement good legal and regulatory frameworks?