Fear has gripped both the ruling Jubilee Party and the National Super Alliance (NASA) that the looming party primaries could trigger major fallouts and impact negatively on turnout in their respective strongholds come voting day.
All major parties are staring at the nominations nightmare with consensus that none of them has the capacity to conduct credible primaries. The fears that the primaries could be rigged have triggered defections on both sides with aspirants seeking refuge in so- called “smaller” parties ahead of the exercise set for next month.
The reality has forced President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party and Nasa to make concessions to accommodate those defecting from their parties but opting to maintain their support for their respective presidential candidates.
Another fear, though not as profound as the defections, is that the country may end up with a President whose party does not command a majority in the two Houses, making it hard to fulfill the government’s agenda in the next dispensation.
For instance, Mr Kenyatta has silently relaxed the condition the ruling party spelt out last year that anybody who wants to work with him must first fold their parties in favour of Jubilee.
We have learnt from impeccable sources at the presidency that Mr Kenyatta’s re-election team will be working with at least two friendly parties where those who must defect from Jubilee for one reason or the other will be advised to consider joining.
A party associated with Jubilee’s head of secretariat Raphael Tuju, Party of Action (POA), is among the “safety valves” which has received the President’s nod. It now rebrands to Party of Development and Reforms (PDR) with a bull as the symbol.
The other one is Kenya Patriots Party which, according to a Gazette notice issued by the Registrar of Political Parties Lucy Ndung’u last Friday, has changed its symbol from a bicycle to a wheel.
Officials of the parties are expected to make a joint appearance with Mr Kenyatta at the Tononoka grounds, Mombasa, today.
Ms Ndung’u said Mr Mohamed Abdi Sahal will be the new Secretary-General of PDR as Ms Edda Jebet Rotich becomes the Treasurer.
Jubilee has also disowned the law barring party-hopping ahead of the elections, an amendment its MPs as well as those of Cord unanimously passed last year as an act of self-preservation, which now gives it room to work with defectors to the so-called “friendly” parties.
On the other hand, Nasa allowed affiliate parties to separately conduct their nominations, fearing that those disgruntled in a joint exercise would easily move.
But for Nasa, it is a problem postponed as candidates fronted by its parties will end up cannibalising each other at the main polls, again, to the advantage of their competitors.
There is a petition in court challenging the amendment on the grounds of infringing on the Bill of Rights. Some legal scholars have argued that this section of Election Laws Amendment Act is unconstitutional.
Yesterday, Jubilee Party vice- chairman David Murathe said that while the idea of merging all parties supporting Mr Kenyatta into one outfit was a noble one, it appears the country had not warmed up to it.
“We thought, like other mature democracies, the country could jell into two major parties like Jubilee and Nasa but clearly this may not happen now,” he said.
His sentiments have been shared by Meru senator Kiraitu Murungi.
Even though he insisted he was not in the loop about the strategy of working with “foster parties,” Mr Murathe said it was a welcome move.
“There are those who may lose in our nominations but chose to move to other parties. I think it is better if we have some working arrangement with such parties,” he said.
The Nation, however, understands there are individuals in government who feel the move may be counter-productive. They say the country may end up with a hung Parliament.
But those supporting the move say what is important is to secure the presidency. They argue that while such competition may snatch away the number of parliamentarians, governors and even county assemblies from Jubilee, it is a panacea for voter apathy usually associated with shambolic nominations.
President Kenyatta’s advisers believe that with the State machinery and resources in its control, he will easily enter into post-election agreements with other parties.
While the unveiling of the nomination timetable by the ODM party on Friday has kicked off a flurry of activities and panic among aspirants, an announcement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati that the commission will not conduct the Jubilee Party primaries has not only shocked the aspirants but has also seen them scampering to “safety”.
We have also gathered that the two developments will see a lot of defections this week with Jubilee witnessing more haemorrhage to parties rooting for Mr Kenyatta’s re-election. ODM on Friday announced it will conduct party primaries between April 1 and April 22.IEBC has set March 19 deadline as the date to submit a list of party members while April 5 is the deadline for all parties to submit names of the candidates.