Why voters had little say and politicians their way in polls

A voter casts his ballot during United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party primaries at Nyeri County Assembly polling station, April 14, 2022. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

The cardinal role of party primaries is to accord party members, the majority of whom are citizens, a chance to vote for a candidate they want to represent them. However, in the just-concluded party primaries, a large chunk of politicians given certificates are loyal to the party and party leaders; and as some losers claimed, names of “relatives and girlfriends of senior politicians” were forwarded to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. 

Initially, this article was structured to argue that politicians that wananchi rejected in party nominations aren’t fit for State jobs. However, I realised that my political p-value (argument for the hypothesis) was null and void along the way because, in the first place, mwananchi had no place in the party primaries. I, therefore, twirled the view to fit the political heaven’s strong evidence against the view.

We have seen after every election, politicians who are voted out by wananchi being rewarded with State jobs such as Cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, or the political parties nominating them into Parliament, some taking slots reserved for youth, minority groups and people with disabilities. This is not usually a secret in our politics—our political gods have normalised the doctrine of rewarding political refuse.

Some aspirants are popular with the people but are rejected by the party bosses. Even if they win nominations, such politicians are rigged out and or denied certificates. This was the fate of embattled Nandi Hills legislator Alfred Keter, who won the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket, but his certificate was reversed.

In such cases, it will be an uphill task for Mr Keter to regain the party ticket and might have to face the party’s choice as an independent candidate. Therefore, it is wise for politicians to place their political bids where they have better chances of winning.

In other scenarios, party bosses forced candidates to drop their bids in favour of alternatives. Such tragedies befell Jasper Muthomi (Mc Jessy) who had been eyeing the Imenti South parliamentary seat but was forced to drop his bid in favour of Mwiti Kathaara. In Mombasa, Suleiman Shabhal dropped his gubernatorial bid and agreed that the ODM ticket be given to Mvita MP Abdulswanad Shariff Nassir.

These ‘consensus’ and other ‘appropriate’ means that political parties used are purely arranged democracy within parties and are in line with the Political Parties (amendment) Act 2022.

Other candidates were given direct tickets as political parties tried to save on resources or rewards for fidelity to the party leaders. The Political Parties (Amendment) Act 20, 2022, allow political parties to give direct nominations under such circumstances. The incumbent MP for Igembe South, John Paul Mwirigi, was handed an UDA direct ticket. In ODM, Oburu Odinga, James Orengo, Gladys Wanga and Peter Anyang Nyong’o were given direct party nominations based on fidelity to the party leader.

Furthermore, several aspirants are victims of zoning in which supposedly strong candidates were sacrificed. For example, Jubilee’s Mathare MP Aspirant Kevin Bahati was dropped, favouring ODM’s Anthony Oluoch. That’s how ODM’s Tim Wanyonyi was felled in favour of Jubilee’s Polycarp Igathe for the Nairobi gubernatorial seat, to mention but a few.

However, some lost nominations because voters rejected them. Such included former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter, who was beaten by political greenhorn Dr Eric Mutai for the Kericho gubernatorial bid.

Others are nominated senator Isaac Mwaura who lost the UDA ticket for Ruiru parliamentary seat to Simon Ng’ang’a while Laikipia Woman Representative Cate Waruguru lost to Amin Deddy in her bid for Laikipia East UDA ticket.

The way things are today, the voter has limited choices. The political parties, clothed as ‘belonging to the people’, are party owners’ enterprises.

Dr Ndonye is a lecturer in Communication and Media at Kabarak University.