While DP Ruto’s supporters want new officials elected by March next year, party secretary-general insists only NEC can decide when polls are conducted
The current infighting within Jubilee Party casts doubts on the party’s ability to hold its scheduled grassroot elections ahead of the March 2020 deadline.
The cracks have been gradually widening, pitting the supporters of Deputy President William Ruto and those seen as opposed to his nomination as Jubilee’s flag bearer in 2022.The group opposed to the DP supports the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
So sharp has been the division that despite the squabbles and calls for a meeting to iron out divisive issues, President Uhuru Kenyatta, the party leader, is yet to respond. He has not even called a Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting since his re-election in 2017.
The cracks have become so wide that a section of the party’s supporters and leaders have openly declared their support for ODM candidate in the forthcoming Kibra parliamentary by-election, despite Jubilee also contesting the seat, through footballer McDonald Mariga.
The party that was launched with so much fanfare in September 2016 as the re-election vehicle for Uhuru and Ruto now faces the litmus test of holding successful grassroot elections, which could define its future.
According to the Political Parties Act 2017, all parties - like Jubilee - that had interim officials at the time of the law’s enactment, are supposed to hold elections within three years (by 2020).
Grassroot elections for political parties have often been a messy affair. Whether Jubilee will navigate the current turbulence remains to be seen.
The split within the party was escalated by Ruto’s declaration that the party will go to the polls early next year.
But Jubilee’s secretary-general Raphael Tuju dismissed the deputy president’s announcement, insisting that only the National Executive Committee (NEC) is mandated to plan and schedule grassroot polls.
Tuju has come under criticism from Ruto’s supporters, who claim he is one of the party officials fighting the Deputy President and opposed to his 2022 candidature.
Former outspoken party vice chairman David Murathe, who was a strong critic of Ruto and had even vowed to champion a “Stop Ruto Movement”, resigned from the position amid bitter exchanges with Ruto supporters.
Tuju dismissed claims that the party must have its elections by end of March 2020, explaining that the constitution requires that elections be held within three years, and that the polls can be staggered over over the three years.
He said the disagreement within the party was healthy for internal democracy.
“I would honestly be very worried if we did not have these political differences and turbulence. If all was quiet, I would be disturbed because ours is a political outfit. What this means is that people are expressing their ambitions and fighting for their space. These conflicts are good for the party,” said Tuju.
He however said the party polls were not a matter of life and death, adding that there was a process of organising the elections, including coming up with a methodology on how to conduct the elections.
“This has to be guided by a plan of action that has to be approved by the NEC. This is what dictates when the elections are to be held and the timetable, including which counties to start with,” he explained.
The secretary-general said there was a team already in place working on the modalities of the elections.
But Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, a close ally of Ruto, said contrary to Tuju’s assertion, the party must hold the polls by the stipulated time in accordance with the requirements of the Political Parties Act.
“It is not about what we want, it is a mandatory legal requirement. Some people are putting it like we have a choice on whether to hold the polls by early next year. That is not the case. If the party has to continue existing, then it is compulsory that we have the elections as stipulated,” he added.
“What we have now are interim officials and the law allowed us only a window of three years from 2017 to ensure we have substantive elected officials,” said Murkomen.
The Elgeyo Marakwet senator dismissed claims that there were disagreements within the party, terming them “small issues that can easily be ironed out”.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata said that given the split in the party, only President Kenyatta can rally elected leaders and supporters to peaceful elections. He said the President holds the key to successful party elections.
“It depends on what directions he (Kenyatta) gives. If he supports the elections and wants Jubilee to hold them, we will have successful grassroot elections. But if he doesn’t approve holding of the polls, then certainly there will be no elections,” added Kang’ata.
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale dismissed claims that the party is struggling to conduct successful elections.
The Garissa Township MP said the party will hold peaceful grassroot elections at the scheduled and right time. He said that at the moment, the party was still growing and championing its development plan that is anchored in the President’s Big 4 Agenda.