By Salad Malicha Guyo Even as the President now grapples with the next step for Jubilee, the triumph of the well organized and ordered the launch of the party and the reception it has received in various regions heralds a new era for Kenyan politics and democracy. The major threats it faces are distinctly internal, most especially how to manage its own internal democracy. The manner in which and the people who take up the party’s leadership will greatly determine its successes going forward.
The headache represented by the nominations process awaits ahead especially now that the amendments to electoral laws have barred party hopping once a candidate has officially joined a party and participated in its nominations. The outward look towards best practices in party organisation from the Communist Party of China is a welcome infusion of knowledge. The towering eight floors of the Jubilee party point to an ambitious party that will require massive resources and knowledge to fulfil its ambition and triumph at the ballot beyond 2017.
Nomination panic is setting in, triggering a wave of party-hopping from big to small players. Incumbents and aspirants fear they won’t get a fair shot and primaries will be rigged, despite repeated assertions by both opposition and Jubilee that they don’t play favorites. Smaller outfits have started reaping a probable bumper harvest, less than two months to the IEBC nominations deadline. They are charging minimal fees and giving direct nominations to woo elected leaders and aspirants uneasy in the big outfits. Jubilee have pledged repeatedly not to award direct tickets, which make primaries pointless. By March 30, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will publish the names of all candidates in primaries. After publication, candidates are barred by law from hopping to another party. Primaries will be held between April 13 and April 26 — and that’s the end of the road for losers. Most party hoppers say they won’t stand a chance in bigger outfits and doubt primaries will not be free and fair.
The biggest casualty has been President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party, which was formed through the contentious merger of 14 political entities. And it hasn’t been an easy marriage, there’s lots of squabbling over positions. Last year the Jubilee Party reaped big — or initially seemed to — as it was launched in September. About 30 MPs and four governors, decamped to Tuko Pamoja. However, JP is facing major trials in its backyards of Central Kenya and Rift Valley. In the past few days, key Mt Kenya figures have hopped from JP to the Party of National Unity, Narc-Kenya and Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap. As most parties in the region folded into the Jubilee embrace, aspirants uneasy with the nominations process have jumped. In Rift Valley, KANU and Chama Cha Mashinani are likely to benefit the most, as they plan to field candidates in all positions. PNU and MCC say they will support Uhuru’s re-election, forcing JP to enter into deals to ensure it retains its Parliamentary majority. Kanu and CCM are yet to declare their choice for President, but they are expected to back Uhuru.
Jubilee’s triumph over a treacherous political and legal environment has brought about new challenges that present a risk moving forward, analysts averred. The small parties from the Jubilee strongholds that did not dissolve find themselves with new life already as candidates contemplate on their options. In President Kenyatta’s central stronghold, the Democratic Party DP has found a new lifeline and will strategically place itself for new gains. Key people who have already abandoned the party include President Uhuru Kenyatta’s adviser on education and Meru gubernatorial aspirant Kilemi Mwiria, Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti, Deputy Governor Dorothy Nditi, Mbeere North MP Muriuki Njagagua and several ward representatives who have joined Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap Party. Tharaka-Nithi Governor Samuel Ragwa, his deputy Eliud Muriithi and 12 members of the
county assembly have decamped from Jubilee to Narc-Kenya. The leaders said they quit President Kenyatta’s party because there were clear indications that Jubilee nominations would not be free and fair.
The party (DP) founded by Mwai Kibaki on Christmas day in 1991 did not merge and remains the one party supporting Uhuru Kenyatta in his Mt Kenya stronghold with the greatest name recognition and favourable historical background. While allied with the president, it represents the biggest challenge to Jubilee’s complete sweep of seats in the region. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government faces cases of internal discord ahead of this year’s crucial election, highlighting the growing threat of cartels keen to destabilize the Jubilee regime.
Over the past few months, the Jubilee government has on several occasions been left with an egg on its face in the wake of several blunders, largely from the President’s communications office even as a supremacy battles among key officials crowded the government agenda. Observers and people familiar with the inner happenings in Jubilee said the rifts were being fuelled by a widening web of cartels, wheeler- dealers and power-brokers who are vying to control the government or hold the regime hostage.
The biggest challenge will be whether the Jubilee Party can co-exist away from tribal divisions and selfish interests as well mobilizing its supporters at the grassroots levels. There has never been any attempt by any party to build structures right from the bottom. As a result, many ordinary Kenyans are often not informed about activities of parties that they support, leading to more disintegration. Bringing Kenyans together based on political parties can only be wishful thinking. In ideal democracies we cannot bring merge more than three parties together and expect to last long.
Merging these parties together makes no difference at all. It is just a political arrangement and a convenient one given the remaining time to this year’s polls, For instance, in 2007 Mwai Kibaki merged parties and formed the Party of National Unity where he turned out to be the only candidate for the party.
It’s a trend in Kenyan politics that big parties swallow the small ones to gain more leverage and win the next election with much ease. The latest development is a step backwards in terms of democratic gains the country has made in recent years because having one dominant political party like was the case during the KANU era, there will be no accountability. Most politicians are scared of going through the rigours of party primaries and later the General election slated for 8th August, 2017.