A proposal to use smart cards in the upcoming Jubilee Party nominations has run into headwinds with majority of aspirants insisting national identity cards should be used. With the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declining to conduct the party primaries, many fear the use of smart cards may favour wealthy aspirants. In Mt Kenya region, registration of JP members using the smart cards has been reduced to a show of might among politicians eyeing different seats.
Wealthy politicians have bought membership cards worth millions of shillings, which they have distributed in their counties as they gear up for nominations next month. Not well-to-do or politicians who have no good connections with top party honchos now feel if the smart cards are used, it would tilt the contest in favour of those who bought them en masse. Among those not comfortable with the use of smart cards in party primaries include sitting governors and MPs who feel the party’s top leadership may have their preferred candidates.
In Jubilee Party’s (JP) Mt Kenya bedrock, aspirants seem to be speaking in one voice – that to make the exercise free and fair, IDs as well as a certified IEBC register should be used in the primaries. Use of smart cards, the aspirants note, will deny and lock out a huge chunk of JP members who cannot afford to buy the cards, but are willing to take part in nominations.
The unique smart membership card, which was launched in January, contains a member’s name, identity number, mobile phone number and voting details such as the polling station. Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria said there was need for the party to use identity cards as a platform to participate in the nomination exercise. “Not all can manage to use the smart card in the nomination but majority have the ability to use the identity cards,” said Iria.
Nyeri town parliamentary aspirant Ngunjiri Wambugu said some well-connected politicians, governors, senators, MPs and Members of the County Assembly, have already hijacked the process. “They have bought and distributed cards to their cronies with JP primaries in their minds,” Wambugu said. This, he said, was outright blackmail since expectations were that members would individually go for the card, which was going for Sh20, thus, helping build party loyalists.
One million cards
Tetu parliamentary aspirant Peter Kamuthu claimed some MPs and aspirants have been using medical camps to acquire personal data and later register patients without their knowledge. “Party cards are later issued out to patients who attended the camp without knowing their personal data has been captured for political reasons,” Kamuthu said.
Mambo Thieri, an aspirant for Mukurweini parliamentary seat, claimed that in Nyeri County the political class have amassed over one million cards while the number of registered voters is approximately over 450,000. “I have not bought any cards for my supporters. Those who have done so are bribing their followers in a bid to win their support in the primaries,” Thieri said.
Chuka Igambang’ombe MP Muthomi Njuki who is vying for the Tharaka Nithi gubernatorial position and Woman Representative Beatrice Nkatha supported the use of identity and voters cards similar to how general elections are conducted. Ms Nkatha said some politicians, for instance, those eying gubernatorial positions have purchased cards that are being distributed to their supporters, questioning the democracy entitled to voters.
“Some governors have bought so many cards, meaning some politicians will have lesser cards than others; at times you wait for so long before receiving the cards after enquiring from the head office,” she said.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega however defended the use of JP cards, but quickly pointed out Parliament is working on a regulation to allow use of IEBC register in areas considered a party stronghold. “The Act will however allow parties to use their respective registers and cards in an area where rivals can infiltrate like in Nairobi and other cosmopolitan areas,” Kega said.
But it is not all aspirants that are in support of the use of IDs in the primaries. Nyeri Senatorial aspirant Dan Wamahiu said use of JP card was the best option, noting that the party was in dire need of resources in its bid to grow. Wamahiu observed that even though the card may pose a lot of challenges to many, it would ensure free and fair elections by locking out those who are not party members.
“How do you expect someone who bought cards worth Sh7 million or less to feel if all of a sudden the party declare them irrelevant? Where will our party get financial resource if we don’t strengthen it?” Wamahiu posed. Ndia MP Stephen Ngari said as long as one has an ID, the document should be used for party primaries. His Gichugu counterpart Njogu Barua on the other hand said since the region is Jubilee dominated, an ID was enough.
“Kirinyaga, for example, is a unique county and even when you hear of some small parties coming on board, the national ID Card and the IEBC registers are enough to carry out the primaries,’’ he said. But North Imenti MP Rahim Dawood said JP must not accept any other means to be used in the nomination process except the smart cards.
Mr Dawood conceded the part cards were not enough to satisfy the demand for them but said if national identity cards are used, members of Maendeleo Chap Chap, PNU and CORD will participate in Jubilee nominations.
“The cards are in high demand. I have just given out 21,000 to Jubilee supporters and I am going to Nairobi on Monday for another 10,00, if I get them,” said Mr Dawood, adding that his target is to distribute 40,000.
However, Igembe North MP Joseph M’Eruaki said national identity cards and Jubilee cards should both be applicable. “There are candidates who are able to buy a lot of cards for their supporters, putting less privileged candidates at a disadvantage,” said M’Eruaki.
– Stories by Nderitu Gichure, Munene Kamau, Boniface Gikandi, Phares Mutembei and Kevin Ngai