Letters

Invest in political party dispute resolution, discipline

ODM

Matungu Constituency aspirant David Were (left) receives his nomination certificate from ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya at Chungwa House on January 6, 2020. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Political parties, especially Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement, the United Democratic Alliance of Deputy President William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress, are gearing up for the rigorous party primaries to nominate the flagbearers.
  • Political parties should invest in dispute resolution and disciplinary mechanisms to nurture democracy.

The political activities and campaigns ahead of the General Election in August are almost hitting a fever pitch.

Political parties, especially Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement, the United Democratic Alliance of Deputy President William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress, are gearing up for the rigorous party primaries to nominate the flagbearers.

This is one activity that every political party would want to pass with speed because of the fallouts the party primaries occasion, in most cases muddling with the original plans.

Therefore, political parties should invest in dispute resolution and disciplinary mechanisms to nurture democracy.

Dispute resolution is a two-tiered process involving administration/governance and mediation/arbitration.

Dispute resolution also has an electoral aspect that is entrenched or pronounced during the electioneering period. All these are spelt out in the election law or voluntary codes of conduct that election participants subscribe to, including election administrators, media, NGOs, political parties or coalitions and candidates.

A dispute resolution committee may have sub-committees whose roles are rooted in the development of the committee structure, general policies, rules and procedures and training of mediators or arbitrators. The committee also receives complaints and disputes resolution requests.

Mediation is the process of bringing conflicting parties together to discuss their issues and points of contention in a safe, non-adversarial environment.

The mediation process is built around refereed discussion, problem-solving and compromise. The mediator does not act as a hearing officer, judge or impose a solution.

Instead, the mediator facilitates the parties in expressing their positions and exploring potential solutions or resolutions to the conflict.

The parties work out mutually acceptable solutions and agree to the resolution. The process and the details of the resolution shall be confidential unless all parties waive confidentiality in writing.

Since the mediator is neither a judge nor a fact-finder, it is most efficient and practical for one mediator to work on an individual conflict.

The arbitrator should be without conflict of interest in the matter, be fair and impartial, trained, maintain confidentiality, report resolution or impasse and file any agreement to the committee, among other etiquette considerations.

Arbitration is a quasi-judicial process that fact finds and makes a determination that is binding.

Many political parties have a separate election dispute resolution committee to handle electoral disputes. Though the administration, Judiciary, law enforcement or any other competent institution can handle this well.

A dispute may concern any election-related issues such as voter and candidate registration, campaigning, the conduct of elections, poll offences lodged against any election stakeholder, including relevant authorities, candidates, media and regulatory bodies.

Efficient resolution of election disputes is essential to the overall protection of basic rights, conflict prevention, poll integrity and public confidence in the election process and acceptance of results. This is one of the essential elements of election observation.

Challenging a poll, its conduct or its result may not only reveal an existing weakness in the system but also indicate the vitality and openness of a political system.

Disciplinary measures should be seen as a last resort, not a substitute for good working practices or one of consensual dispute resolution.

Disciplinary action in the context of politics is taken if one contravenes the constitution of a party, breaches the party’s code of conduct, brings the party into disrepute. If a complaint brought forward does not meet these criteria, it is not a disciplinary matter.

A political party can only discipline its members. If a matter involves a non-member then it is taken to the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties or the Judiciary.

As we near nominations and elections, electoral disputes and disciplinary cases will be common. Members of a political party must understand their constitution and know the action to take in case of a breach.

Martha Marwa, Expert in political parties dispute resolution and disciplinary processes