Invest in resolving disputes between political parties, discipline
- Political parties, particularly Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement, Vice President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance, Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress, are gearing up for rigorous party primaries to appoint flag bearers.
- Political parties should invest in dispute resolution and disciplinary mechanisms to foster democracy.
Political activity and campaigning ahead of the August general election is nearing a fever pitch.
Political parties, particularly Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement, Vice President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance, Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress, are gearing up for rigorous party primaries to appoint flag bearers.
This is an activity that every political party would want to skip quickly because of the fallout party primaries cause, in most cases interfering with initial plans.
Therefore, political parties should invest in dispute resolution and disciplinary mechanisms to foster democracy.
Dispute resolution is a two-tier process involving administration/governance and mediation/arbitration.
Dispute resolution also has an electoral aspect that is rooted or affirmed during the electoral period. All of these are set out in election law or voluntary codes of conduct to which election participants, including election administrators, media, NGOs, political parties or coalitions and candidates, subscribe.
A dispute resolution committee may have sub-committees whose roles are rooted in the development of committee structure, general policies, rules and procedures, and training of mediators or arbitrators. The committee also receives complaints and dispute resolution requests.
Mediation is the process of bringing disputing parties together to discuss their issues and points of contention in a safe, non-adversarial environment.
The mediation process is built around mediated discussions, problem solving and compromise. The mediator does not act as a hearing officer, judge or impose a solution.
Instead, the mediator helps the parties express their positions and explore potential solutions or resolutions to the conflict.
The parties work out mutually acceptable solutions and agree on the resolution. The process and details of the resolution will be confidential unless all parties waive it in writing.
Since the mediator is neither a judge nor an investigator, it is more efficient and practical for a single mediator to work on an individual dispute.
The arbitrator must be free of conflict of interest in the matter, be fair and impartial, trained, maintain confidentiality, report resolution or deadlock, and file any agreement with the committee, among other etiquette considerations.
Arbitration is a quasi-judicial process that finds the facts and renders a binding decision.
Many political parties have a separate election dispute resolution committee to handle election disputes. Although the administration, judiciary, law enforcement or any other competent institution can handle this well.
A dispute may relate to all election-related matters such as voter and candidate registration, campaigning, conduct of elections, election offenses filed against any electoral actor, including relevant authorities, candidates, media and regulatory agencies.
The effective resolution of electoral disputes is essential to the overall protection of fundamental rights, the prevention of conflicts, the integrity of the ballot, and the public’s confidence in the electoral process and the acceptance of the results. This is one of the essential elements of election observation.
Challenging an election, its conduct or its result can not only reveal an existing weakness in the system, but also indicate the vitality and openness of a political system.
Disciplinary action should be seen as a last resort, not a substitute for good work practices or consensual conflict resolution.
Disciplinary action in the context of politics is taken if one violates the constitution of a party, violates the code of conduct of the party, brings discredit to the party. If a complaint filed does not meet these criteria, it is not a disciplinary matter.
A political party can punish only its members. If a case involves a non-member, it is taken to the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties or the Judiciary.
As nominations and elections approach, electoral disputes and disciplinary cases will be commonplace. Members of a political party should understand their constitution and know what action to take in the event of a violation.
Martha Marwa, expert in political party dispute resolution and disciplinary processes