Only a month to the general election, politicians are complaining that the long campaign period has cleaned out their finances.
But the reason for the strain is that the main political competitors in the election, NASA and Jubilee Party, have tightened their purse strings, probably waiting to launch into a spending blitz during the final stretch of the campaigns.
And the signs are all over, especially in Nairobi where the level of activity witnessed in 2013 is missing, apart from an occasional campaign caravan.
The hyper campaigning that was expected from the Jubilee candidate for Nairobi governor, Mike Sonko, and his NASA rival, Evans Kidero, is yet to be witnessed. Both are presumed to have deep pockets. So far Kidero has spent only Sh1m advertising with the Standard Group.
The financial strain, some say, started with the party primaries, which some politicians want reduced to three weeks.
A source in this newspaper’s commercial division said there had been little in advert revenue from both political camps. NASA had not run any commercial as of yesterday. The coalition has been relying on the publicity created by electronic and print media coverage while taking advantage of citizen journalism on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp.
From Jubilee, Standard Media made Sh6 million when the party advertised its manifesto launch and other activities.
Under the Presidential Delivery Unit, the ruling coalition has been running Sh30 million adverts monthly, which is probably why some politicians think Jubilee is being stingy because you wouldn’t separate the achievements of the Government from those of the ruling party.
“Friends of Jubilee are expected to sponsor some supplements to start running in print media soon,” said our source. He continued: “Compared to 2013, we are doing badly. Individual candidates are not booking adverts.”
Recently, a lobby a calling itself Friends of Jubilee organised a Sh10 million per-plate, invite-only event at Safari Park Hotel, raising over Sh1billion. NASA also organised a fund-raising dinner at Ole Sereni Hotel but it did not disclose the amount it raised.
ANC leader and NASA co-principal Musalia Mudavadi also had a fund-raiser at Panafric hotel where he raised Sh50 million against a target of Sh500 million.
Cabinet secretaries Judy Wakhungu (Environment), Eugene Wamalwa (Water), Amina Mohammed (Foreign Affairs), a host of principal secretaries and Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka held what was called Mulembe Dinner at Panafric Hotel and raised Sh10 million against a Sh200 million target to support Jubilee campaigns in Western Kenya.
Jubilee has also a deal with Magnate Ventures, an advertising firm, which will erect 120 billboards each at a cost of Sh120,000 at vantage points across the country.
The political parties’ nomination process started in February and ended with the list of nominated candidates in June. The party primaries happened between April and May, while the commission completed the verification of particulars and clearance in May, placing a huge financial burden on aspirants and incumbents.
ODM Political Affairs Secretary Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju and NASA Champions National Coordinator Moses Oburu blame the constitutional timelines for the burden.
“The election timeline is too long. Most countries take three weeks, or a maximum four weeks to complete elections. Deployment of resources is a big challenge,” says Wandayi.
Tuju agrees with Wandayi on the timelines, saying some countries conduct elections within 30 days.
“It is only in Kenya where politicians are always on the campaign trail. It would be important to amend election laws to reduce the timelines,” he said.
In Jubilee, Tuju says, it is only the President and his deputy William Ruto who are out on a vote-hunting spree. Those seeking other elective positions are left to their own devices, he adds.
Oburu speculates the low flow could be because Government contractors have not been paid.
“Business people normally fund politicians or political parties to get favours once they assume office. In this case, the Government is the biggest revenue source for business people,” he says.
But according to Jubilee Vice Chairman David Murathe, it is too early for contenders to flex their financial muscle.
“You will only see the posters and billboard adverts for now. Some of the JP achievements are also being aired on the electronic media. However, we are operating ‘chini ya maji’ (low key,” he says.
“There will come a time when we are going to come out full throttle to woo our supporters. We don’t need to hype our activities to get votes. Just as we contained (CORD’s) Okoa Kenya crusade in 2015, we’ll do the same soon.”
He goes on: “It is deliberate. We have toned down our campaigns. Even in UK, Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap election and it happened with the pomp and heightened campaigns. The same was witnessed in Tanzania,” he explains.