It is important to know how to join a political party in Kenya. The Kenyan Constitution says every citizen is free to make political choices, which includes the right to participate in the activities of, or recruit members for, a political party (see Article 38(1) (b) of the Constitution).
Political party membership in Kenya is the lifeline of any political party. To become a member of a political party in Kenya, that party must be registered in accordance with the Political Parties Act.
The Kenyan Constitution and the Political Parties Act provide political parties with the legal leeway to determine eligibility for membership for a political party in Kenya.
Therefore, every political party has the freedom to decide:
- who can join the political party, and
- the criteria a person needs to satisfy before becoming a member.
A political party stipulates eligibility for membership in the party’s constitution.
How to join a political party in Kenya
To become a member of a political party in Kenya, there are guidelines to follow.
Political parties in Kenya recruit members using Party Membership Verification Forms specified by the party. Every member of the political party should fill and duly sign these forms. Once a person’s name enters the membership register of a political party, the person becomes a member of the political party.
It is an offence to register a person as a member of a political party in Kenya without their consent.
A political party should always keep an updated and accurate list of party membership. The list should be available for the members and the public at the party’s head office and all party offices in the counties.
The details required by the Party Membership Verification Form include the:
- name of the county;
- name of the member;
- age, sex and occupation of the member;
- residence of the member (Constituency, Ward);
- postal address and telephone number;
- Village or Ward or another local leader (recommendation?);
- the number of the party membership card, the date it was issued and the place it was issued;
- ID or Passport number of the member;
- the subscription or membership fee;
- membership acknowledgement;
- name of the member and their signature and the name of the recruiter and their signature.
The membership card for a political party also carries the above details except those relating to the party recruiter.
Political coalitions do not have their own members but individual parties in the coalition have their own members.
A person who is a Kenyan citizen and at least 18 years is qualified to be a member of a political party.
The recruitment process for membership of a party
In recruiting members, the recruitment process for the political party should include the following elements:
- the party constitution must spell out the requirements for membership recruitment;
- the party must introduce a membership card of a specific standard;
- the party and the member must complete the member verification form;
- the party must keep and continuously update a membership list;
- the party must keep and update a list of membership dues paid in accordance with the party constitution.
When the party and the member complete the member verification form:
- the party forwards details of the member through the Integrated Political Parties Management System (IPPMS)
- the Registrar of Political Parties verifies and validates the uploaded membership in the IPPMS.
- once a person has been verified into the membership register of a political party, the person becomes a member of that party.
Rights of a political party Member
A member of a political party in Kenya has several rights including the right to:
- participate in the activities of a political party;
- campaign for a political party or cause;
- contest for leadership positions in a party;
- run as a candidate in the party nomination for candidates for general election and by-election;
- access to party documents and records.
How to leave a political party in Kenya
There are four ways a person ceases to be a member of a political party. These include:
- by resignation;
- by expulsion;
- through “deeming”; or
- natural attrition.
1. Leaving a party through resignation
A member of a political party who intends to resign from the political party should give a written notice prior to resignation to—
- the political party;
- the clerk of the relevant House of Parliament (the Senate or National Assembly), if the member is a member of Parliament; or
- the clerk of a county assembly, if the member is a member of a county assembly.
The resignation of the member of the political party should take effect upon receipt of such notice by the political party or clerk of the relevant House or county assembly.
The political party and the clerk should notify the Registrar of Political Parties within seven days from the resignation.
Upon receiving the notification, the Registrar should cause the name of such member to be removed from the membership list of that political party.
2. Leaving a party by expulsion
Members are bound by the Constitution of a political party. The party may expell any member who violates its constitution.
Each political party normally sets out the party disciplinary mechanism.
The party should afford a fair opportunity of the member to be heard in accordance with the internal party disputes resolution mechanisms as prescribed in the Constitution of the party.
3. Leaving a party “through deeming”
A person should not be a member of more than one political party at the same time.
A person who, while being a member of a political party—
- forms another political party;
- joins in the formation of another political party;
- joins another political party;
- in any way or manner, publicly advocates for the formation of another political party; or
- promotes the ideology, interests or policies of another political party,
should be deemed to have resigned from the previous political party.
The word “deem” in this case may mean to “determine, consider as, regard as, adjudge, regard, hold, and view, hold as, et cetera.”
There are two ways by which a member of a political party is deemed to have resigned
from the party:
- by the party of which a person is a member; or
- by the Registrar of Political Parties.
It is mandatory for every political party to have a criteria and procedure for deeming a member. The criteria and procedure must reflect the above criteria for deeming.
The political party must submit the criteria for the deeming of a member to the Registrar of Political Parties together with the party constitution.
A political party whose member is deemed to have resigned, should in accordance with the procedure set out in the constitution of that political party, notify the Registrar of Political Parties of such decision within seven days.
Upon receiving the complaint, the Registrar should cause the name of such member to be removed from the membership list of that political party.
When the Registrar receives a reasonably justified complaint either from the members of the party or from the public, the Registrar may initiate the deeming process.
The deeming process does not apply to political coalitions. Political parties can legally form coalitions. A member of a political party may:
- in any way or manner, publically (in public) advocate for the formation of a coalition in which their party intends to be a member, or the member advocated that the party should be a member;
- promote the ideology, interests or policies of a coalition in which their party is a member.
4. Leaving a party through natural attrition
A person can cease to be a member of a political party through death. If a member of a political party dies, they cease to be a member of the party automatically.
Leaving a party not applied for
Sometimes, there are numerous complaints from citizens enlisted by political parties that they never subscribed. To curb this fraud, and for accountability and transparency, it is necessary to clean up their names from the parties membership register.
The law requires political parties to seek the consent for membership recruitment from the person they enrol upon registration. Moreover, only party members are allowed to participate in the party primaries.
If a person is enlisted by a political party that they never applied for, they should:
- write a letter of resignation, with their details to the party and copy the Registrar of Political Parties.
- attach a copy of National ID or Valid Passport to the letter.
- send a copy of the letter and National ID or Valid Passport to the office of the Registrar of Political Parties, or scan and forward to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upon receiving the letter, the Registrar should cause the name of such member to be removed from the membership list of that political party.
For more on how to join or leave a political party, download the guide to political party membership (PDF).
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