Fierce political battles rage ahead of Jubilee, ODM polls

An ODM supporter carries damaged voting ballot during party elections at Kasarani in 2014. [Photo, File]
The two major political parties are facing an implosion over planned party elections as rival factions plot to seize control of Jubilee and ODM ahead of the 2022 General Election.

While President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s March 9 truce last year calmed tensions on the national stage, both party leaders still have to reckon with internal feuds in their respective parties ahead of the grassroots elections scheduled for early next year. 

An MP allied to Deputy President William Ruto has warned their camp will push for the dissolution of Jubilee should it fail to hold party elections, signaling the zero sum power games that threaten to rock the ruling party and ODM.

In Jubilee, lawmakers allied to Dr Ruto yesterday demanded that the party holds its election by March next year as stipulated in its constitution, stating that the party belongs to the members and not a few party officials.

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Partisan politics

The Ruto camp has waged an unrelenting war on current interim office holders, particularly Secretary General Raphael Tuju, for allegedly playing partisan politics, and has insisted that elections must be held in March when their three-year term lapses.

It is on these grounds that former party vice chairman David Murathe resigned in a huff after he declared his opposition to Ruto’s bid to succeed the president.

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Yesterday, Kimilili MP Didimus Baraza raised the stakes, warning that Ruto’s camp would not hesitate to move to court to demand that the party is punished for violating its constitution.

“We are already forming camps at the grassroots in readiness for the elections. If they fail to conduct the election, we will move to court to compel the Registrar of Political Parties to have the Jubilee Party deregistered,” he said.

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The declaration gives an indication of the extent of the wrangles rocking Jubilee, which has for months been plagued by factional feuds pitting MPs allied to Mr Kenyatta against those allied to his deputy.

The DP’s camp has unsuccessfully pushed for the convening of a parliamentary group (PG) meeting to discuss the turmoil in the ruling party.

However, at one point State House ruled out the possibility of the president summoning a PG, saying Uhuru was not interested in politics that distract.

A couple of weeks ago, while in Cherangany Constituency, Ruto said he had discussed party elections with the president.

“The president and I have sat down and discussed and we have to put in place plans for Jubilee elections because the party constitution says elections should be done by March, starting from the grassroots,” he said.

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According to the party’s constitution, all interim party officials shall serve for a term not exceeding three years from the date of appointment unless they are elected as provided by the Constitution.

Cast doubt

But nominated MP Isaac Mwaura cast doubt on the planned exercise, saying there are no clear rules and regulations to guide party nominations.

“Even if Jubilee was to do an election, who would be an arbiter in the event of a fallout?” he asked.

Mr Mwaura added that he was working on a Party Primaries Bill to guide the process and prevent major political fallouts occasioned by divisive party elections.

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Aldai MP Cornelly Serem and nominated MP David Ole Sankok said they expect Jubilee to conduct the exercise while noting that there had been no communication yet to party members about the exercise that should be held within the next three months.

Mr Odinga’s ODM has also not been spared the infighting over planned party elections that threaten to escalate into power struggles ahead of the 2022 General Election.

It emerged that top Orange party officials are divided over the implementation of a task force report that recommended a total overhaul of the current secretariat.

The secretariat, headed by executive director Oduor Ong’wen, and the National Elections Board (NEB), under nominated MP Judith Pareno, have been blamed for bungled party nominations that have seen the popularity of the one-time largest political outfit dwindle in successive polls.

Deputy party leader and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya is one of the top party officials who have demanded that “cartels within the two organs” be kicked out before the next general election if the party was keen on regaining its popularity.

Mr Oparanya hinted at the existence of officials who use their positions to manipulate nomination results, which has pushed popular candidates to other parties.

“Some of our people went independent because they are fed up with our systems. Let us be a democratic party. If someone wins, let them be given their certificates,” he said.

“We have to deal with the cartels in the system. This is the time to strengthen our secretariat. Let’s implement everything in the report if we are to move on as a party.”

The task force report had established that party primaries remain ODM’s biggest undoing, declaring that the process “lacks credibility and is not free and fair”.

Another senior official in the party told The Standard that the report was being fought from within by officials who have been the major beneficiaries of manipulated primaries.

But ODM Chairman John Mbadi yesterday said the report pointed at system gaps that needed to be addressed, not individuals’ mistakes.

The party has since formed a Secretariat Management Board chaired by Mr Mbadi and comprising Secretary General Edwin Sifuna, Junet Mohamed (elections director) and Mr Ong’wen, among others, to push for reforms in both the secretariat and NEB.

Raila is also at a crossroads over the party’s planned polls, set for the first quarter of next year, that could set his key lieutenants against each other in a battle to control branch officials.

A majority of his key men and women have hinted at running for governor and would be fighting to control the regional offices.

Some of the Raila allies who have hinted at running for the county post are Mbadi, Siaya Senator James Orengo, Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi and Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga.

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ODMJubileePresident Uhuru KenyattaOpposition leader Raila OdingaParty polls