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How Opposition botched its bid for State House

By Jacob Ngetich | Published Sun, August 13th 2017 at 00:00, Updated August 12th 2017 at 22:05 GMT +3
NASA Principals Photo:Courtesy

For a united opposition boasting some of Kenya’s most seasoned politicians in its line-up, NASA’s failure to clinch the ultimate price after promising so much has left its supporters asking hard questions.

With Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula and Isaac Ruto on one side, the alliance’s rallying call was that it had more than 10 million voters on its side. When the final tally of the presidential results came, it had managed just slightly above half of that.

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As the Independent, Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declared President Uhuru Kenyatta winner of the presidential elections with 8,203,290 votes (54.2 per cent), NASA supporters were left pondering what could have gone wrong after such a promising campaign period.

NASA has refused to acknowledge the results, and have yet to make known their next course of action. The alliance says it beat Jubilee, and have rubbished the IEBC tally that gave it 6,762,224 votes (44.74 per cent).

But even as the opposition ponders its next move, insiders told Sunday Standard of deep-lying problems within NASA that could have led to its undoing. According to a senior official at the NASA campaign headquarters, the alliance lost the election because a number of “brilliant boardroom ideas” that were never implemented.

“We had a huge team of researchers and policy makers who worked tirelessly, but most of their ideas never left the boardrooms,” he said.

FOREIGN EXPERTS

He singled out the “Adopt a Polling Station” idea as one of those that failed to materialise, even though it was exhaustively discussed and approved.

In the initial plan, the Adopt-a-Polling Station idea five agents would have been dispatched to man a polling station at all points of the electoral process. They were to guard the vote by witnessing the counting and tallying process and sending the results to the constituency agent and to NASA’s national tallying centre using iPhones.

But this idea fell flat, even though it had consistently made headlines weeks to the polls.

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“Although the constituency agents across the country were trained, those at the polling stations were not despite the fact that those in charge were paid millions in allowances and consultancy fees,” said the source.

Another insider at the NASA campaign team in Nairobi’s Westlands said the Opposition did not invest in information technology to ensure results are received and collated promptly across the country.

Instead, according to the official, a few foreign experts were entrusted with the responsibility of setting up the infrastructure for vote tallying that never was. “We had a group of well-paid experts from the US, Canada and Ghana, but they failed to set-up the infrastructure we required,” he said.

Some of these experts were deported by the government days to the polls, leaving NASA without a back-up plan.

Then there is the issue of NASA’s parallel tallying centres that never were. But with the results consistently putting President Kenyatta in the lead, NASA held a press conference at midnight Tuesday to dismiss them, saying they were not the ones announced on the ground. 

This left Kenyans on social media questioning whether indeed NASA had its own tallying centres as it had promised. The alliance only invited journalists to its Runda tallying centre on Friday afternoon, a few hours before IEBC declared Uhuru the winner.

But NASA’s problems seem to have had deep roots. Its campaigns always seemed disorganised and bogged down by sibling rivalry and supremacy battles, says a political pundit.

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“They made sure that people within the coalition were pulling in different directions, derailing their vision,” said Dismas Mokua, a political analyst.

The number of candidates from affiliate parties running against each other for the same seats, as many as four in some seats, gave Jubilee an edge, said Mokua.

“They spend their time destroying themselves. This had a ripple effect on the presidential vote as voters saw a better option in Jubilee,” he said.

A case in point is the bitter rivalry between Mombasa ODM governor-elect Hassan Joho and his Wiper opponent Hassan Omar. The contest between the two protagonists almost went personal, with ODM security roughing up Omar during NASA’s final rally in Mombasa.  

A similar incident occured in Bungoma between governor-elect Wycliffe Wangamati of Ford-Kenya and ODM candidate Alfred Khangati. The two almost came to blows as they demanded endorsement from NASA principals.

POLITICAL BLUNDERS

While Jubilee had a well-oiled campaign with several lobby groups targeting different constituency of voters, NASA run a single drive with only one narrative -- pointing out the ruling party’s ills. This meant little or no time to sell their agenda to the electorate.

“Several visits to Western and Gusii regions, particularly by Deputy President William Ruto, bore fruits. Their attempts to build bridges in regions where they did not get votes in 2013 really worked,” said Philip Chebunet, a political analyst.  

Grave political blunders by Raila and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka during the campaigns, Chebunet said, did not help matters. 

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“The tribal connotations in the Kajiado speech asking the Maasai not to sell land to outsiders and claiming that those in Mt Kenya will have to lie low only helped bring out the vote in central Kenya. It worked for Jubilee,” said Chebunet.

According to Mokua, NASA failed to appreciate the strength of the incumbency that enjoys resources and machinery that run right into the village.

 


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