Kenya: Parties Face Sh600,000 Bill to Register
Lucas Barasa 4 September 2008
Nairobi — Tough new rules for political parties include a registration fee of Sh600,000, it was announced on Thursday.
In addition, major political parties, whose names and symbols look alike, could be forced to change them or disband.
The rules, which affect all 300 political parties in Kenya, have been introduced by the Electoral Commission of Kenya.
From now on, parties such as Narc and Narc Kenya; Ford Asili, Asili Saba Saba, Ford Kenya, New Ford Kenya and Ford People; ODM and ODM Kenya and Kanu and New Kanu; might end up fighting to retain their identities when the rules come into force.
These are the parties that initially started as one strong entity but later split due to disagreement between leaders who still wanted to retain the brand name.
Object of hate
The Political Parties Bill, which became law in July, empowered the Electoral Commission, which has become a hate object for political parties since the presidential elections last year, to make rules and regulations for political parties.
Parties now have just about four months to comply with the rules, including opening branches in all 210 constituencies.
Attempts by President Kibaki to reorganise his Party of National Unity into one strong entity have been opposed by affiliate parties Narc-K, Ford Kenya and Democratic Party of Kenya.
The new registration fee, which was published in a special issue of the Kenya Gazette, Supplement Number 62, has elicited strong opposition from more than 100 political parties, which have described them as exorbitant and meant to stop them from operation.
The parties have called a meeting in Nairobi today to formally denounce the new requirements and chart a way forward.
According to the legal notice obtained by the Nation, political parties are supposed to pay Sh100,000 for application for provisional registration and Sh500,000 for full registration.
In case of official searches, the parties have to part with Sh500 while application for a copy of any certificate or filed document or for a certified extract from the register will cost Sh10 per page.
ECK chairman Samuel Kivuitu published the rules as per Section 43 of the Political Parties Act.
The section empowers the commission boss to prescribe the fees but does not specify the amount.
The section also deals with the manner of registration of parties, use, change of names, income, expenditure, the rate and manner in which funding may be granted, and winding up of a party.
On Thursday, 78 non-parliamentary parties took issue with the new requirements and questioned criteria used by ECK to come up with the Sh600,000 fee.
"Why is the amount not say Sh600 or Sh6,000," Mr Gachuru Karenge of the Kenya People's Party asked at the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy offices in Nairobi. He was accompanied by Mr David Wakau of the National Patriotic Party and Amos Mugambi of Kenya Citizens Congress.
Mr Wakau chairs a committee that groups officials from 78 non-parliamentary parties on whose behalf he spoke.
The officials said 155 parties, except Narc-K, had confirmed taking part in Friday's meeting to petition ECK to rescind the new requirements "as they are not practical. The parties include giants ODM, PNU and ODM-Kenya, Mr Wakau said.
"We want to deal with ECK. Although the law gives it powers to make regulations for purposes of carrying out or giving effect to the Political Parties Act, it does not specify the registration fee," Mr Karenge said.
The officials said many parties could not afford the fees and that if the rules will be implemented, only two or three parties will exist.
They questioned why ECK had rushed to set the registration fee, yet the funding of political parties had not been effected.
The officials were also unhappy with the requirement that for a new party to be registered, it has to have offices in all the districts. This, they said, would only leave big political parties to dominate the scene.
According to rules ECK published, dated August 29, an application for provisional registration of a party should be submitted in duplicate along with two copies of the constitution and rules of the party.
The applicant should further have a declaration in support of the application and the name, emblem, motto and any other marks or features of the proposed political party, which shall be distinct from, and bear no resemblance to that of any other political party which has already been registered.
After meeting the requirements, the registrar will issue a certificate of provisional registration within 30 days on payment by the applicant of Sh100,000 fees.
Application for full registration must be accompanied by a declaration of two office bearers of the proposed party and certificate issued after payment of Sh500,000.
If an office bearer of a party ceases to hold office, the registrar has to be informed within 30 days while a party that changes office or postal address has to notify the registrar within 14 days.
The new rules warn that the registrar may remove a political party's entry from the register in case of the party that has been registered provisionally and has not applied for full registration within six months.
Every party has to submit to registrar a copy of an audited statement of accounts and the auditor's report on those accounts not later than six months after the end of financial year.
The parties further have to submit to the registrar annually a return related to its constitution, objects, office-bearers, membership and finances.
Office-bearers of the party have also been warned that they will be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both if a party breaches any provision of the regulations.
In an advertisement in the Nation on Wednesday, ECK told political parties that were registered under Societies Act to ensure they complied with Political Parties Act in 90 days.
The parties, acting Registrar of Parties Lucy Ndung'u said, should amend their constitution or rules to comply with the Act, failure of which they will become "unlawful political parties and shall be de-registered." Following the coming into force of the new law, the registrar of political parties will operate under ECK at its Anniversary Towers headquarters in Nairobi.
The new law spells doom for "briefcase" parties that were registered just before last year's General Election, but failed to field candidates for presidential, parliamentary or civic seats.
The strict discipline which the political parties registrar will enforce include de-registering parties that fail to field candidates at the next election or in six years.
The Act, had been welcomed by some politicians who said it will go a long way "in nurturing democracy in this country."