Parties are facing their biggest logistical nightmare as they head into nominations, which started on Thursday.
Bungled nominations that almost always result in violence and the real danger of fallouts are the two biggest headaches that parties face, and this was amplified by the debacle of the failed ODM gubernatorial nominations in Busia.
There are fears that unless parties get their nominations rights, this could lead to voter apathy in the August elections.
Yet, parties ability to hold credible primaries remain to be seen although this is probably one of their biggest responsibilities.
The problem is especially critical for the big parties, Jubilee and ODM, where competition for tickets is fiercest.
For President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga (ODM), who control parties that have as many as 70 per cent of the political representation in all elective seats, it is a battle of their lives as they train their guns on the August 8 General Election.
For them, the case is simple: well-done nominations will go a long way to assure votes for them and a guarantee of numbers in both Houses of Parliament as well as in the counties.
The opposite is dire. Bungled primaries where one of the aspirants feel rigged out will dent the chances of the nominated candidate winning in the main election.
This could also lead to voter apathy that could depress presidential candidates votes.
The fear of what a bungled nominations look like was seen yesterday when supporters of Funyula MP Paul Otuoma, chanting “No Otuoma, no Raila”, vowed to teach the ODM leader a lesson in the August polls after the party announced incumbent Sospeter Ojaamong’ as the winner.
The ODM National Elections Board later cancelled and rescheduled to April 25.
In a similar development, the Orange Party suffered yet another blow when Nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro joined Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress yesterday after she was fined Sh1 million and barred from running against Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang’ on the party ticket. The party had found her guilty of indiscipline.
She said: “I am a victim of circumstance. There is a cartel that has midnight meetings and imagines it can decide the political destiny of people. Look at me: I am not a bitter woman.
“I believe in Nasa but I will not give Kajwang’ the benefit of using other means to be the only candidate.”
Ms Ongoro’s switch, which she said happened within legal timelines, deals a blow to the two big parties that had hoped to bar its defeated aspirants from changing parties.
Aspirants who feel cheated during nominations, and who are unable to defect to other parties, still have a window of opportunity to run as independent candidates if they register with the electoral commission before May 8.
Parties, on the other hand, have until April 26 to complete their nominations.
The possibility that nomination losers could still run as independents raises the stakes even higher for President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
A popular candidate can still be on the ballot as an independent.
President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party has taken a huge gamble by announcing that it will conduct its nominations in 33 counties on a single day: April 21.
The party, with eight million registered members, has 8,012 aspirants for various seats.
How these will be conducted successfully will be seen on April 21.
“We have a similar template. All we have to do is replicate it across the board. Two, there will be no chances for counties to influence the outcome of others,” Jubilee Party Secretary-General Raphael Tuju told the Saturday Nation in an interview.
Jubilee fears that staggering the nominations the ODM, Amani, Wiper and Ford-Kenya way, could allow party members to “import the bad tactics” used by aspirants in other counties.
But the party’s National Elections Board chair Andrew Musangi argued: “Party hopping comes from dissatisfied people who feel they have been rigged out. So what we can do is to deal with the prevention rather than the cure.
“If you prepare to hold a free, fair and credible elections, then you have a lot less to worry about,” he said.
And the fear of a fallout is real, given the political bigwigs fighting for their lives in the different primaries.
Former Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru has locked horns with Governor Joseph Ndathi for the top county’s Jubilee ticket, while in the neighbouring Kiambu, Governor William Kabogo is facing a tough battle to retain his seat in the face of a fierce challenge from Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu.
In Nairobi, Senator Mike Sonko is battling 2013 presidential candidate Peter Kenneth and former Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru for the Jubilee Party governorship ticket.
In Nakuru, where the Jubilee nominations will almost guarantee one a win in the governor’s race, Governor Kinuthia Mbugua will face former Nakuru Town MP Lee Kinyanjui, former Naivasha MP John Mututho and Nakuru Senator James Mungai.
In Murang’a, Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau and incumbent Governor Mwangi wa Iria have recently had violent confrontations.
Supporters chanting wa Iria songs recently disrupted rallies organised by Mr Kamau, but the governor vehemently denied association with the chaos.
Mr wa Iria said he was banking on his four-year score card to convince the electorate to re-elect him.
He said his projects resonate well with the locals and his main focus has been agriculture.
Governor wa Iria added that his government had also introduced an internationally recommended Hass cultivar avocado, which is mainly grown for the export market in place of the old or traditional avocado, as they seek to boost farmers earnings.
“We gave out avocado seedlings to over 30,000 farmers and expect the aggregate household income of these farmers to increase in the next two years.
“Same is expected of maize farmers who received Sh150 million worth of free maize seeds….the maize seeds, according to agricultural experts, have a potential yield of Sh2.7 billion,” he said.
In Nandi, former ministers Henry Kosgei and Felix Koskei have both lined up to oust the incumbent, Dr Cleophas Lagat in a race that has a total of nine aspirants.
In Bomet, Sotik MP Joyce Laboso will square it out with former Konoin MP Julius Kones for the ticket. The winner will face the incumbent, Mr Isaac Ruto, of CCM.
The same challenges await ODM in its strongholds. The party’s nominations in Nyamira, slated for Tuesday, Migori on Friday and Kisumu on April 24, will be major tests for the Opposition party.
In Siaya, the incumbent, Mr Cornel Rasanga, is battling against Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, businessman William Oduol and Carey Orege, all of who are close Raila allies.
In Kisumu, Governor Jack Ranguma will run against Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o and businessman Hezron Mc’obewa among others, while in Homa Bay, incumbent Cyprian Awiti will face Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga, businessman Samwel Wakiaga and Enosh Bolo.
Both Kisumu and Siaya will hold their nominations on April 24 while Homa Bay and Migori will go to the ballot on April 21.
Additional reporting by Eric Wainaina