The Jubilee Party is banking on its disciplinary committee and appeals tribunal to rein in errant aspirants, even as it abandons its smart card system following claims of fraud.
The party’s National Elections Board said all aspirants will be briefed on the code of conduct two days before the primaries, as well as the procedure to be followed when filing petitions.
“Nominations are a vigorous contest and the aspirants may not always be satisfied with the outcome. This is not going to be resolved by violence. We have a rigorous disciplinary process,” said board chairman Andrew Musangi.
“This is an everyday learning process to ensure Wanjiku gets to make the decisions she should be making,” he added.
The party says the disciplinary committee chaired by Muchai Lumatete and the appeals tribunal chaired by Faith Waigwa will punish merchants of violence and resolve disputes from the primaries, respectively.
The party, which has scheduled its primaries on April 21, expects tough contests in Nairobi, Murang’a, Nakuru, Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties where it enjoys strong support, but with key leaders going for the same positions.
Two weeks ago, President Kenyatta said he was willing to sacrifice anything for party democracy and would work with those nominated.
“Deputy President William Ruto and I will not interfere with the nominations. That I promise. We will work with whoever the mwananchi nominate,” President Kenyatta said in Kiambu County, where his lieutenants, Mr Ferdinand Waititu and Mr William Kabogo, are contesting for the governor seat.
The Jubilee principals have also dismissed politicians who they said have been using their names to gain favour with the people.
“These aspirants are all my friends. I do not support any one of them,” he said.
ABANDONED SMART CARD
Last week, the party abandoned its smart card venture after claims that politicians had bought multiple cards and activated them for voters. This time, Mr Musangi said, voters with or without smart cards would be allowed to vote in their respective polling stations as long as their names appear on the party’s membership register.
“The smart card is a supplementary form of verification. You and I know, from press reports, that there are people who tried to subvert the smart card process by buying as many as 20,000 cards, each at Sh20.
“We have a fully segregated party members’ register which will be available at every polling station. Whether you are a smart card holder, or an ordinary party member, you will be required to find your name in the register to vote,” he said.
Party officials say they have received many requests from the European Union, America, Britain and other international organisations to observe the elections, which Jubilee and President Kenyatta want to demonstrate as free and fair.
“We also welcome the media to cover and observe the primaries,” Mr Musangi said.
Aspirants have been busy preparing their agents for deployment to polling stations to monitor voting and counting of ballots. “We shall have three to five agents per station to guard against rigging,” said Mr Waruru Ndegwa, who is campaigning for one of the gubernatorial candidates in Nyeri County.
Many candidates have expressed concern over the primaries being conducted in a single day. One of them is Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, who is trying to unseat Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria.
He requested party’s officials to stager the nominations across several days, but his request was declined, with the party explaining that it had hired enough personnel to complete the primaries in a day.
Jubilee’s secretary general, Mr Raphael Tuju, said they had recruited at least 20,000 polling and counting clerks. They have also hired thousands of officials as presiding officers at polling stations, besides the constituency and county returning officers. Distribution of ballot papers, according to Mr Tuju, should have started yesterday. He said they would hold a meeting with aspirants on Tuesday to brief them on logistics.
To most aspirants in Jubilee zones, the primaries will be a matter of life or death, as losing could mean missing the chance to be the people’s representative.
WORKING ROUND THE CLOCK
In counties like Nyeri, Nakuru, Laikipia and Nyandarua where campaigns have been relatively calm, aspirants are working round the clock.
They are moving around in towns and villages — in long convoys of vehicles — urging voters to turn out in large numbers on nomination day. There are also recruiting people to issue voters party membership cards.
But there are signs that the primaries may not be trouble free. First, setting up county elections board was not easy — it was marked by complaints, protests and violence in some areas, with supporters of rival candidates engaging in showdowns.
Some prominent party supporters even defected to smaller parties that support President Kenyatta’s re-election, following fears that the polls board would favour some candidates.
Disagreements over alleged partiality of the elections board led to mounting tensions in several Jubilee-dominated areas.
In Murang’a County, for instance, supporters of incumbent Mwangi wa Iria and those of his rival, Mr Kamau, have clashed several times, accusing each other of planning to manipulate the primaries. Every time the two groups meet, security forces have to be deployed to avert violence.
Kiambu and Nairobi Counties may also not be free of such incidents, unless Jubilee conducts its primaries with great caution.
In Kiambu, Governor Kabogo and main rival Waititu have been locked in supremacy battles.
Many leaders, including President Kenyatta who hails from the county, have refrained from visiting the county so as not to be associated with any group.
The volatile situation in Kiambu and Murang’a has left many people, including religious leaders, worried. The question on the lips of voters is: will the losers reconcile with the winners after the primaries?
The coordinator of the Anglican Church Men Association, Mount Kenya South Diocese, the Rev Ezbon Ngaruiya, lamented the bitter rivalries witnessed between gubernatorial aspirants in Murang’a and Kiambu counties. “They (competitors) appear to have turned into sworn political enemies,” the Rev Ngaruiya told the Nation.
Nairobi is another place to watch where the battle between Senator Mike Sonko and 2013 presidential candidate Peter Kenneth is promising to turn ugly.
The former has been hinting at bolting out of Jubilee if the nominations are not free and fair.
Additional reports by Eric Wainana