Big fights, tough demands that stalled long-awaited UDA polls

UDA party logo. Polls that had been slated for tomorrow have now been pushed to April next year. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

President William Ruto’s UDA has postponed its party elections planned for tomorrow with reports that differences over whether or not to fold political parties forming the Kenya Kwanza coalition are to blame for the surprise turn of events.

It has emerged talks over dissolving the parties stalled after factions within the coalition failed to agree.

The party has faced a myriad of challenges in the recent past with a tough succession battle taking centre stage, forcing the National Steering Committee, chaired by President Ruto, to push the polls to April 12th, 19th, and 26th, next year.

UDA secretary-general Cleopas Malala said talks for parties to fold and join UDA are at an advanced stage. “We had to delay party polls to accommodate members of other parties,” Malala said.

He told The Standard the delay is meant to allow Ford Kenya, ANC, and eight others to take part in the elections and be part of the ruling party.

The former Kakamega Senator said the push to fold the parties is meant to build a strong constituency to serve the interests of Kenyans and have representation at all levels of governance.

“There are talks between UDA and affiliate parties, Ford Kenya and ANC included. We felt it would be good if we waited for them to agree on finer details of the arrangement so they can take part in the party elections,” Malala said, adding; “It would be unfair for them to dissolve their parties when UDA has finished elections.”

Party sources said ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi has demanded substantial concessions, including the coveted position of secretary general, among other influential roles within the party if he was to join.

UDA officials said the talks have added a layer of complexity to the party’s internal dynamics already facing tough post-Ruto politics.

“Our boss (President) gave Musalia time until December to make up his mind. However, the demands Musalia made look tough since he might end up controlling the party, something all UDA politicians from Mount Kenya are against,” a top party official said.

Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula, it is said, has not entertained the talk of folding his party. He is understood to have asked UDA officials to go ahead with their activities.

Ford Kenya SG, who is also the MP for Tongaren, Mr John Chikati, was reluctant to comment on the matter only saying; “The party has to consult before a statement is released.”

Malala said: “The talks with eight parties are at an advanced stage. We want to build a strong party, which will be an institution to promote democracy and development.”

He added: “More than 300,000 people had registered to contest for various party positions. They needed time to manage the high numbers.”

“We will hold elections, and the ward will form an electoral college vote for the constituency. The constituency college will vote for the county. We expect 540,000 people to contest.”

Malala also said most MPs (up to 80 per cent) will be away participating in sports, making it hard to hold party elections hence, the need to push them to the new year.

“We are building a party that will grow beyond us. That is why you can see 540,000 people have shown interest. We have to prepare well because we are a democratic party,” he said.

An MP, who didn’t wish to be named, said the party is taking too long to hold its elections because different groups within have formed and are unable to agree on how to vote for the top leaders, nationally. “This disagreement among UDA leaders has made it hard to decide on the election process, causing delays,” the MP said.

He added: “These factions mirror the regional politics of Mount Kenya, particularly in Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Embu, Kirinyaga, Meru, and Tharaka Nithi, where disagreements persist about regional leadership.”

Another insider said: “Those around Rigathi want the party to vote using delegates who have been elected, while the young turks are pushing for the party to pick people from counties to vote.”

He added: “Each faction understands that their voting process favours them, and they want to use a process that favours them so they can have their people in good positions to contest in the coming elections as part of the battle to succeed Ruto.”

As the battle to succeed Ruto intensifies, a faction of young parliamentarians wants two more deputy party positions created to water down Gachagua’s influence in UDA.

“The young parliamentarians also want Ndindi Nyoro to contest for the SG seat currently held by Malala,” said another source.

UDA Secretary for Legal Affairs Edward Muriu said they intend to lure Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and the National Assembly Speaker Wetang’ula into Deputy party leader positions for them to agree to the dissolution of the parties.

He said UDA’s constitution has all along had the three slots of the deputy party leader saying what they have not done is to name the office bearers.

“We intend to give Mudavadi and Wetang’ula the two positions even as we continue asking them to fold their parties. The two leaders are already in government. Gachagua is above them in the pecking order so there should be no cause for alarm,” he said.