The Constitution of Kenya (CoK, 2010) and the Political Parties Act, 2011 have brought about many new changes affecting formation, management and regulation of political parties in the country. Registered political parties, their officials, members, supporters and citizens need to know key information about these laws which include members’ rights and obligations.
The idea that the affairs of political parties need to be governed by law is a relatively recent development in Kenya. Initially, political parties were registered under, and governed by, the Societies Act. Political parties did not have legal personality or perpetual succession. Basically, political parties belonged to individuals and some unscrupulous party leaders formed parties with a view to selling them for monetary gain. With the emergence of multiparty rule and the mushrooming of political parties that followed, a need for greater clarity on the rights and duties of political parties also emerged. The Political Parties Act 2007 (PPA 2007), which became operational on 1 July 2008, superseded the Societies Act with regard to the formation, management and regulation of political parties. The PPA 2007 provided a legal framework for registration, regulation and funding of political parties and established the Office of Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP), responsible for implementing and enforcing the law.
The Political Parties Act, 2011 provides the institutional, legal and regulatory framework for registration, regulation and funding of political parties in Kenya. The Act is the primary legal reference for management of political parties in accordance with Articles 91 and 92 of the Kenya Constitution 2010, which envisages well governed political parties that respect internal democracy and their constitutional status in the Kenyan political system. The Act seeks to address gaps that were inherent in Political Parties Act 2007 such as lack of clarity on mergers and coalitions. Under the Act, political parties have legal personality and therefore can sue, be sued and own property, among other functions.