IS UHURU RISKING DEFEAT IN 2017?

By Stan Oyunga (stanoyunga@gmail.com)

INTRODUCTION

In exactly one year from now (8th August 2017), Kenyans would have re-elected Uhuru Kenyatta for a second term as President or would have shown him the door and made history as the first country in East Africa to have replaced an incumbent President; or the leading Presidential candidate would have failed to garner the 50% +1 figure required to be declared elected and Kenyans would be preparing for a run-off Presidential election for the first time. 

IS FORMATION OF JUBILEE PARTY EVEN NECESSARY?

The idea of having all parties in the Jubilee coalition merge into a single party was mooted early last year but is just about to be become a reality after President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto were presented with instruments of the new Jubilee Party on 25th July, 2016 from the co-chairmen of the Jubilee Party National Steering Committee, Dr Noah Wakesa and Mr Kiraitu Murungi. 

Among the 14 parties to be dissolved before the formation of the Jubilee Party are The National Party (TNA), which sponsored President Uhuru Kenyatta and the United Republican Party (URP) which sponsored Deputy President Ruto in the 2013 elections. Others include the New Ford Kenya (NFK), (which decided to dissolve itself on 11th June, 2016), Alliance Party of Kenya (APK), United Democratic Forum (UDF), Ford-People (FORD-P), Grand National Union (GNU) and Republican Congress (RC). 

The parties have been given one month to dissolve at the joint National Delegates Conference to be held before end of August, 2016. The Jubilee Party’s top organ is expected to be the National Executive Committee (NEC) with Uhuru and Ruto expected to appoint the 77 members on an interim basis. As a pointer to jostling of positions on the NEC, New Ford Kenya is already claiming the Secretary-General’s seat, stating they deserve it by virtue of being the first to dissolve.

In order to insulate the President, his deputy and the Governors and their deputies from losing their seats whenever their sponsoring party dissolves, the Political Parties Act, 2011 was amended recently. It previously only protected sitting Members of the National Assembly, the Senate and Members of County Assembly (MCA) as they were given option of moving to a new party or becoming independent members.

The section 10 of the Political Parties Act requires Coalitions to deposit their Coalition agreements 3 months prior to a General Election or 21 days after signing such an agreement after a General Election. Dissolving Political Parties in the Jubilee Coalition and merging them with the Jubilee Party before April, 2017 may render the pre-election coalition agreement dull and void and Jubilee may lose its status of the majority coalition under section 108 of the Constitution. Since the new Jubilee Party will not be part of any coalition, it is not clear if it can still claim the position of Leader of the Majority party under section 108 (2) of the constitution, especially if some elected members of the former Jubilee coalition decide not to join the Jubilee Party and become independent members, thus denying JP the numbers to be the largest party in Parliament. 

Currently the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) is the largest single party in Parliament with 93 elected members (78 MPs and 15 Women Reps) followed by TNA with 83 (70 MPs and 13 Women Reps) and URP with 73 (62 MPs and 11 Women Rep). The law is silent if a ruling coalition ceases to exist by virtue of dissolution of its constituent parties, which is set to happen in September, 2016.
The Jubilee coalition has a total of 176 elected members (150 MPs and 26 Women Reps) while Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) has 136 elected members (115 MPs and 21 Women Reps).

PARTY NOMINATIONS

The new Jubilee Party’s biggest challenge will be how to handle party nominations for the 2017 General Elections. The losers may decide to look for other parties to nominate them to enable them to take part in the General Elections or stand as independent candidates. Currently losers in nominations are not prevented from defecting to other parties or becoming independent candidates. In some cases this will lead to the strange situation of a party under CORD or another coalition having a seat in a Jubilee Party stronghold. This actually happened in the 2013 General Elections when the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) won in Igembe Central and Tigania East, hence were counted as being under CORD despite being in a Jubilee Coalition stronghold. Areas such as Nairobi, Nakuru and Eldoret will see former TNA and URP aspirants in direct competition for interim party seats in the new Jubilee Party and also for nominations in the primary elections. 

By forming the Jubilee Party, it will make it difficult to have other major parties outside the Kikuyu and Kalenjin ethnic groups join the Jubilee Party as they will first have to dissolve their parties (e.g. Luhya, Kisii, Kamba and Coastal), a move that will make them lose their identity. Moving from a pre-election Coalition to a single political party has no advantage for Uhuru Kenyatta as he seeks to be re-elected. In fact it may be very risky due to the nature of coalition politics in Kenya. He needs to attract other parties (ethnic groups) to his coalition as he depends mainly on his Kikuyu ethnic group, Meru and Ruto’s Kalenjin ethnic group. Uhuru should retain Jubilee as a pre-election coalition in order to attract other parties as Kenyans tend to identify with their ethnic groups especially in voting patterns. This the reality of Kenya Politics which cannot be wished away.

THE NARC DREAM

The reason for a party to “unite Kenyans” does not hold water and the nearest that Kenya came to having such a party in the multi-party era was The National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), in 2002 which was formed to end KANU’s 40 year reign as Kenya’s ruling party. The party originated from Charity Ngilu’s National Party of Kenya (NPK) in 1997 but did not sponsor any candidates in the 1997 General Elections. It transformed itself into the National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK), a coalition of 13 political parties formed in September, 2002 in order to contest the General Election as one party. On 22/10/2002 it joined forces with the Liberal Democratic Party (Rainbow), which comprised of former KANU politicians, to form the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) with Mwai Kibaki as its presidential candidate. Political parties that joined forces to form NAK were the Democratic Party, Ford-Kenya, Social Democratic Party, National Party of Kenya, SPARK, United Democratic Movement, Ford-Asili, Conservative Party of Kenya, Shirikisho, Federal Party of Kenya, Kenda, Liberal Green Party and the Progressive People’s Forum. 

NAK transformed itself into the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) to enable the latter to sponsor candidates for the 2002 General Elections held on 27th December, 2002 which was won by NARC. This tactic was to prevent the KANU government from refusing to register NARC as a political party. By the 2007 Elections the NARC dream of a united Kenya party was history. Will the same thing happen to the Jubilee Party in 2022?

CONCLUSION

Jubilee’s “Tyranny of Numbers” only exists in the National Assembly due to the large number of new constituencies created in the Rift Valley and North-Eastern Regions, but whose population is low. It does not translate to a huge voter base. Jubilee has no choice but to remain a coalition and embark on luring part of Western Region, Coast and the lower Eastern Region into its fold if it wants to win re-election in 2017.

Uhuru should spend the last full year of his term building his legacy like the completion of the Standard Gauge Railway, the Lamu Seaport and transport corridor, the School Laptop and electrification; and reducing the terrorist threat to Kenya. But he is about to enter a political minefield due to poor advice and will turn out to be a distraction. 

The biggest threat to Uhuru’s re-election bid is if ODM party leader, Raila Odinga decides not to stand in the 2017 elections and instead nominates another person to stand as the CORD flag bearer (“Wata or Wiper tosha”). Uhuru cannot afford to wait for a miracle to make CORD break-up in order to win re-election. Even taking “goodies” to CORD strong-holds will never work as long as the candidates are standing on Jubilee Party tickets. 

President Mwai Kibaki was given the same advice to stand on a new single party called Party of National Unity (PNU) in 2007 and ended making history as the only democratic elected President in Africa who did not have a majority in Parliament. He had only 43 elected members vis-a-vis ODM’s 99 members. Even after the post-election violence in 2007-2008, (symptoms of a weak political party), Kibaki had no choice but to share power with ODM as he could never be able to pass legislation with very few MPs, mostly from his own ethnic group. 

1st August, 2016

© 2016 STAN OYUNGA

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