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Party discipline and collective position dilemma

By Hesbon Owilla
Monday, May 10th, 2021 00:00 | 2 mins read
Chungwa House, Orange Party headquarters. Photo/PD/File

Strong democracies are built on strong political parties. Public interest issues are deliberated within political parties and once a position is taken, the entire political party structure and membership should move in that same direction. 

In as much as we hold different opinions on the running of political parties in Kenya, the outfits are entities that we have to build and institutionalise. To a large extent, political parties take positions in the interest of the people and we see this all over the world. 

They are the vehicles through which manifestos are sold and the winning parties form government and depend on their elected legislators, to underpin the executive policies and deliver the manifestos that propelled them to government. 

The losing party or coalition of parties then form the alternate government and in the interest of the public, take positions that would benefit the majority, even as they oversight the government. 

The role is not always fault-finding but what literary scholars call a critique. A critique is constructive and provides pathways for a greater good of a greater majority. 

This kind of arrangement requires party discipline and robust structures that support collective positions on critical issues, that advance the party interests in serving public interests.

And for the records, parliamentary positions are held at the behest of party leaders and in support of political party agenda.

Therefore, when an MP is de-whipped for taking a position or expressing intelligent sentiments that are contrary to the party, we need to exercise our minds on what Immanuel Kant calls the categorical imperative. 

The Kantian categorical imperative says that when one is confronted with a moral dilemma, we should choose that which we would want to be universalised.

This translates to a question of always doing that which when applied to everyone, would still be right. 

Today we may want to ask ourselves what would we want to universalise. Blatant opposition to a process that brings more resources to the common mwananchi or a culture of individual positions, that lack the deliberative approach of political parties? 

On the one hand, we have legislators who have supported the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), for as long as we can remember and then out of the blues, they claim  some sort of public interest and all manner of rights to hold opinion. 

Well, the jury on whether these members are right or not is out there, but at least two key things have come out clearly.

One, is that these members have come out against their political parties’ interest and two, the overwhelming deliberations within these political parties won the day. 

On the other hand, party loyalty is also right. And this is further supported by the fact that stronger political parties, with muscles to push robust party agenda in Parliament eventually serve greater public interest. 

Of the two positions, which one would we, as a society, want to take as our universal way of doing things?  

A chaotic political party dispensation of individuals who can speak eloquently and go against their own political parties, in the name of public interest or political parties with structures that can provide enduring frameworks for nation building. 

It is instructive to exercise our minds on the reality that the Orange Democratic Movement party followers, will hold their leader responsible for failures of the party, even if such failures are occasioned by brilliant individuals. 

No one will go for some of these individuals, and political parties have a responsibility to ensure that all their members build into that which they will held accountable. [email protected]

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