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Uhuru, Ruto party convenes NEC amid fears over nominations

Meru County Women Rep aspirant Kawira Mwangaza address Meru residents on March 24,2017,after Meru senator Kiraitu Murungi officially opened her office in Meru town .Kiraitu openly endorsed Kawira Mwangaza as the preferred jubilee candidate to vie for the women rep seat in Meru County. Photo: Peter Muthomi.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Jubilee Party (JP) to set the date for party primaries.

Sources revealed on Saturday that the meeting to be held on Tuesday will also discuss the divisive issue of the usage of smart cards for the nominations. The meeting will seek to stem anxiety among aspirants who have been kept in the dark on the exact date for the primaries.

Although the party has embarked on an exercise to select panels to oversee the nominations, no date has been set for the exercise.

On Thursday, the National Election Board Vice Chair Veska Kangogo confirmed that NEC, the party’s top organ that comprises President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto will meet next week to deliberate on the matter.

Mapping out

“The issue on the exact dates when the nominations will be held and approval of the county elections boards will be key among agenda,” Ms Kangogo said.

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She said already the Board was mapping out JP strongholds with a view of preventing the Opposition from infiltrating its zones on priority basis, before finally coming up with specific dates.

Speaking in Nyeri during the election of the county’s election Board, Kangogo said by the end of next week the board will give outs specific dates for JP primaries.

She allayed fears that the use of smart cards was likely to lock out a huge number of party supporters; however she quickly pointed out all members will be allowed to participate in the exercise. The issue of the usage of smart cards has divided the party right down the middle, with aspirants differing with incumbents  over what should be used during nominations.

In Nairobi, for example, Senator Mike Sonko who is eyeing the governorship, has maintained that only the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) register and a national ID should be used in the nominations. And a section of aspirants in Nyeri are of the view that members should be allowed to participate and vote in nominations exercise using their ID cards as opposed to the recently launched smart card.

Those opposed to the use of the membership card feel that it would be disadvantageous to the not well-to-do aspirants who have not had the privilege of buying them in large numbers like the wealthy contestants.

Party Vice Chairman David Murathe however said only those with the smart card and appear in party register will be allowed to take part in  party primaries.

He downplayed reports that he and Raphael Tuju, the head of the JP secretariat were sending mixed signals over the use of the cards.

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He said according to political party acts only party members and those in the party register can take part in the nominations.

One reason, Mr Murathe said, as to why JP was intent on use of the card was to create a data base and ensure people who are not members other than those of JP do not infiltrate the exercise.

“Members who belonged to 12 political parties that merged automatically became JP members and have a right to take part in primaries, but must demonstrate they are our members,” the vice chair said.

He said the party had so far distributed over seven million cards and a consignment of three million cards is expected.

“Out of the three million 2.6 million has already been booked in by members countrywide, leaving only 400,000 for grabs,” Murathe said.

In the meantime, politicians from Central Kenya are strategically positioning themselves for bruising battle in a bid to clinch the party ticket.

And while some are toying with the idea of getting direct nominations, others are busy scheming how to outdo their rivals, with reports that they have amassed smartscards worth millions of shilling in readiness for the exercise.

Nyeri town parliamentary aspirant Ngunjiri Wambugu said the process has already been hijacked by well-connected politicians. “They have bought and distributed cards to their cronies with JP primaries in their minds,” Mr Wambugu said.

Mambo Thieri aspirant for Mukurwe-ini parliamentary seat claimed that in Nyeri County the political class have amassed over one million cards while the number of registered voters is slightly over 450,000.

The card is connected to the database of the registrar of political parties and that of the IEBC, so that not only members not registered in other political parties are voters.

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