Claims of rigging in the ongoing party primaries across the country, coupled with strict electoral laws barring party hopping, have opened floodgates for dissatisfied politicians to run as independents in the August 8 election.
The first was Funyula MP Paul Otuoma who ditched ODM on Friday and said that he would contest the Busia gubernatorial seat as an independent candidate.
In a letter to ODM Secretary-General Agnes Zani, Dr Otuoma asked the Orange party to remove his name from its list of members.
The letter was received by the Registrar of Political Parties on Friday and states: “I am a life party member number 000032. I would wish to resign and withdraw from the party with immediate effect.”
The registrar, Ms Lucy Ndung’u, confirmed receiving Dr Otuoma’s letter. “Yes it is true he (Otuoma) has tendered his resignation from ODM party and we have received the letter,” said the registrar.
Dr Otuoma had a serious disagreement with a panel picked by the party’s leader, Raila Odinga, to investigate the botched nomination in Busia county.
Dr Otuoma was closely followed by West Mugirango MP James Gesami who also bolted out of the Orange party citing massive irregularities in the ODM nominations for the Nyamira gubernatorial seat.
This came barely two days after he rejected the victory of his challenger, incumbent Governor John Nyagarama.
He had written to the party’s national elections board calling for the nullification.
He told the Nation: “I am running as an independent with the Party of Independent Candidates. God willing, I shall be on the ballot paper in August,” he said.
Mr Nyagarama was declared the winner after garnering 17,487 votes against Dr Gesami’s 12,126.
Taita Taveta Governor John Mruttu also fell short of ditching the Orange party to seek election as an independent candidate in the August 8 elections following the disputed party primaries in the county which saw his rival for the gubernatorial seat, Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu, declared the winner.
OPTIONS REMAINED OPEN
Addressing reporters on Saturday, a cautious Mruttu played his cards close to his chest, only warning that his options remained open.
“I will consult my supporters to seek their views on what to do next. I will make the announcement when the time comes but, for now, I am still in ODM,” he said.
This followed the party’s move to call off primaries in five polling centres in Taveta, his stronghold.
According to provisional results announced on Tuesday, Mr Mruttu was trailing Mr Mwadeghu with 14,817 votes against the Wundanyi MP’s 17,557.
According to the timelines set by the electoral commission, candidates have up to May 5 to register as independents
According to the constitution, for one to be cleared to run as an independent candidate, one must not be a member of a registered political party and “has not been a member for at least three months immediately before the date of the election”.
The constitution further states that for one to contest a parliamentary seat as an independent candidate, such candidate must be supported by at least one thousand registered voters in that constituency and at least two thousand registered voters for a candidate seeking a senatorial seat.
It is, however, silent on how many registered voters must back one’s application to run for the gubernatorial seat as an independent candidate.
Out of the 290 elected MPs in 2013, only four of them were elected independently.
They are Patrick Musimba of Kibwezi East, Wesley Korir of Chereng’any, Boniface Gatobu of Buuri parliamentary seat and Mt Elgon’s John Serut.
Former Anglican Church of Kenya Bishop Beneah Salala Okumu, who retired in December last year to contest the Matungu parliamentary seat on Amani National Congress ticket, also declared that he would run as an independent candidate after losing the party’s primaries which he described as “a fraud.”
ACCOMPANIED BY GOONS
“We were so shocked to see fellow aspirants storming polling stations accompanied by goons and transporting their supporters to vote in different polling stations across the constituency,” said Bishop Okumu.
He said he had petitioned the Amani party headquarters to nullify the nominations and disqualify aspirants who had hired goons to disrupt the primaries from taking part in the primaries.
“If that does not happen, I’m considering resigning from Amani and contesting the parliamentary seat as an independent candidate,” said Bishop Okumu.
Jubilee Party also suffered a blow after Isiolo senator Mohamed Abdi Kuti decamped to Narc-Kenya.
Mr Kuti on Saturday announced that he had ditched Jubilee for his new party just three days before the party’s shambolic primaries in the county.
In Rift Valley, several aspirants fell short of declaring their intention to run as independent candidates following the shambolic Jubilee Party nominations on Friday.
The aspirants gave the party one more chance to conduct credible nominations or they shift their allegiances before the end of next week.
The greatest dissent was experienced in Nandi, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Uasin Gishu and Baringo where residents expressed anger at the party leadership.
A majority of candidates in Elgeyo Marakwet county on Saturday warned that it will not be business as usual if the party secretariat fails to conduct credible nominations.
They warned that they would explore other options, including defecting to other parties or running as independent candidates.
Marakwet East MP Kangogo Bowen accused the party of ill-preparedness and an incompetent secretariat.
“We were initially duped that IEBC will conduct the Jubilee Party primaries and we thought this would happen. The problem with the secretariat is actually incompetence. This is a secretariat with hand-picked individuals,” said the MP.
“As we wait to hear what the secretariat will announce today (Saturday), it should be clear that every aspirant would rather lose elections fairly in the General Election than being edged out of the process through sham party primaries. The party should act fast to salvage itself from the mess,” the lawmaker added.
In Iten, Elgeyo-Marakwet governorship aspirants Jackson Kiptanui, Moses Changwony and incumbent Alex Tolgos equally expressed their frustrations with the way things turned out on Friday.
“We are asking Raphael Tuju and his team to step aside for this incompetence,” said Mr Kiptanui.
In Baringo, gubernatorial aspirant Stanley Kiptis led dozens of aspirants in condemning the shambolic nominations.
“We cannot accept to be taken for a ride and the people should be left to exercise their democratic rights without interference by leaders who want to force their way in through dubious means,” said Mr Kiptis.
In Nandi, supporters took to the streets demanding to know why they had been treated to a show instead of serious nominations. They also defaced Jubilee offices.
They invited CCM leader and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi to tour the county and facilitate the defection to the two parties.
“We will not allow the nomination to be rigged after the party had collected a lot of money to allow us to participate in the exercise,” said Abraham Mutai, a voter at Mosoriot polling station.
Former Kenyan ambassador to Australia Stephen Tarus, who is vying for Chesumei parliamentary seat, and athlete Wilfred Bungei, who is eyeing Emgwen parliamentary seat, joined protesters against the poorly-organised nomination process.
“The party collected over Sh5 million from aspirants. We don’t understand why it did not put in place a proper mechanism to ensure nominations go on smoothly,” said Mr Tarus.
Stories by Peter Leftie, Aggrey Omboki, Lucy Mkanyika, Vivian Jebet, Philemon Suter, Barnabas Bii and Flora Koech.