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Small parties key to Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election

By Kathuri Murungi | Published Thu, March 16th 2017 at 00:00, Updated March 15th 2017 at 20:14 GMT +3
President Uhuru Kenyatta. (Photo: Beverlyne Musili/Standard)

Collapsing parties that made up the Jubilee Alliance to form the Jubilee Party was a good and bad idea. Good because it was meant to unite all communities in one political house, in an effort to craft one vehicle moulded on the principle of inclusivity.

This vehicle would also form a formidable force against a marauding Opposition, especially in zones that have been mapped as ‘swing votes’.

National unity is a major fulcrum around which our presidency revolves and going by the past cases of exclusion and unfair distribution of State resources, it is only fair that every government makes tangible efforts to include all communities in its governance structure.

However, Jubilee Party’s formation has created another problem; excluding party members from the inner circle of the party. A group of political leaders who are hell-bent on locking others out in the upcoming party primaries slated for April has been born.There is palpable anxiety with Jubilee Party and all indications are that if unchecked, there could be more exoduses of party aspirants from the party in favour of independent tickets or smaller parties.

Due to the limitation of slots, the so-called regional kingpins have clandestinely plotted to edge out more popular leaders just to team up with their cronies. The Jubilee leadership must be wary of selfish leaders who want to secure their seats first without caring what happens at the presidential ballot.

With an unprecedented fallout occasioned by the outcome of party primaries, I can see smaller parties and independent candidates playing an integral part in Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election.

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This is how. In Jubilee strongholds, it is politically suicidal to have only one dominant party. The effect of one party is that those who lose out in the primaries are likely to skip the election especially if the candidates they have invested in emotionally are locked out. My take is that popular candidates for lower seats who will not have a chance to bag the Jubilee ticket will be critical in shoring up voter turnout in Jubilee zones.

The stiffer the competition downwards, the higher the outcome upwards. An analysis of 2007 and 2013 presidential election results shows the presidential vote attracts the highest number of votes cast.

This is because it is highly unlikely that someone will go to vote in a polling station and leave the presidential ballot blank.

All the facets of voter mobilisation are local, meaning most of those going to vote do so in favour of one or at most two candidates for the lower seats with the rest on the ballot being beneficiaries of the undecided nature of our voters.

The Jubilee Party must, therefore, treat Independent Candidates and those from small parties as a blessing in disguise. A pool of these candidates will ensure Jubilee candidates do not relax on the assumption that they have already won the election.

The advantage that accrues from non-Jubilee candidates is that most of these candidates will not seek to antagonise the local electorate by vouching for presidential candidates other than those popular in their backyards.

So, in this scheme of things, President Kenyatta loses nothing. And all President Kenyatta needs from his backyard is the total presidential vote.

He and Jubilee Party must therefore not treat other candidates as adversaries but as worthy competitors who will shore up voter turn-out at the grassroots.

Unlike in 2013 when people did not understand exactly who they were, Independent candidates could get more leverage in 2017.

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