Rush to register new parties will change arena ahead of elections

The Service Party Party leader Mwangi Kiunjuri (centre) during a press conference at Maanzoni Lodge in Machakos County, in October last year. [File]

Ballot papers for next year’s General Election may be the longest ever in the country’s history if the number of aspirants will mirror that of the registered political parties.

All races are seemingly crowded, with the presidential contest taking the cake for the interest it has attracted. More than 15 politicians from different parties have declared interest to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Ahead of the 2017 General Election, many had prophesied the death of crowded presidential contests owing to the emergence of ‘big parties’ in the political arena.

But the collapse of the Jubilee Party behemoth and spectacular fall of the National Super Alliance has sent most politicians racing to smaller outfits, through which they hope to chart a path to State House.

There has been an emergence of parties that bear all the hallmarks of regional cocoons–run majorly by second-term governors and politicos whose influence doesn’t stretch beyond the regions from which they originate. The agenda of such parties, too, is limited to the regions they represent and the personalities that are propping them up.

The crafters of these political vehicles have not shied away from declaring that they will advance the ideologies of their backyards, an indication that the parties may be tools for political posturing. ?

The rush is informed by the fact that parties have until October 18 to complete registration and submit their documents to the office of the Registrar of Political Parties.

Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu said 83 parties may participate in the next year’s elections, with 75 having completed registration. The number is set to rise as more than 50 Kenyans are racing to register parties to enable them field candidates in next year’s polls.

Ms Nderitu said 19 parties have been issued with provisional certificates but are yet to complete registration. In the 2017 elections, the office had 66 parties in its register. Nine others have since registered fully.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i is reportedly planning to craft a party. In a press conference yesterday, 15 Gusii MPs from across the political divide said they were in talks to register a national party.

“...our community will be reviewing all the available options that include, but are not limited to, establishing a fully fledged national party, supporting a national party that is alive to our political and economic interests, or engaging with other like-minded parties to achieve our people’s dreams,” they said.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi was this week endorsed by the once-vibrant Democratic Party–formerly belonging to retired President Mwai Kibaki–which he hopes will be his ride to State House.

Yesterday, DP national officials endorsed Muturi as their presidential candidate after a meeting of the National Executive Committee.

The Speaker’s move follows similar decisions by Mandera Governor Ali Roba, his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi, Murang’a’s Mwangi Wa Iria, former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, and National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, who have in the last two months aligned with political outfits.

Roba has taken over the United Democratic Movement (UDM) party, formerly owned by the late Maj Gen (Rtd) John Koech. Roba has not declared any political interest.

In the takeover, Roba picked Chief of Staff David Ohito as the party’s secretary general. Mr Ohito said they have hit the road running and will market the party across the country.

A day before the gazettement of UDM’s new office bearers, a group of leaders from the arid and semi-arid lands (Asal) led by Mr Yatani declared after a two-day retreat in Naivasha that their Upya movement would be transformed into a party. 

Yatani said theirs will be a grassroots-oriented and participatory movement that will afford residents the opportunity to articulate their views in order to formulate strategies aimed at narrowing the development gap in their home counties.

The entry of Upya movement and UDM into the political fray is likely to excite residents of Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo and Marsabit.

Mr Kabogo unveiled his new political outfit dubbed Tujibebe Wakenya Party, which he will use to vie for the presidency in 2022. “I have said I will vie for the presidency. Lazima tujipange ahead of 2022 and make the right choices.”

Parties that have been unveiled in the last two months include Wa Iria’s Usawa Kwa Wote, Kingi’s Pamoja Alliance and Kuria’s Chama Cha Kazi.

In an interview with The Standard, Ms Nderitu said she had received more than 1,000 registration applications since 2017.

“We ask them why they cannot join other existing political parties and the answer is always the same; that they want to bring a different idea on how government should be done,” she said.

Political analyst Peter Kagwanja said the current alignments will have a huge implication in the political landscape in the run-up to 2022.

“If it doesn’t hold together with Uhuru and Ruto, Jubilee will go the way of other parties. Jubilee Party is going to be there and will remain but one of its constituency is going to leave therefore it will be condemned to form another position in order to form a winning coalition,” Prof Kagwanja said.

“The other partner will insist on not having the name of Jubilee as the name of the party alliance, therefore they will be forced to form a new party the way Jubilee was formed.”

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