Scramble hots up in Jubilee as leaders eye 2017 party tickets

The chairman of National Steering Committee in theJubilee coalition Senator Kiraitu Murungi flanked by members of the newly formed Jubilee Party address the press in in Naivasha last year. [PHOTO: ANTONY GITONGA]

The battle to control the Jubilee Party in the ruling coalition strongholds has intensified ahead of its formal launch in March.

Counties in Central and Rift Valley where the party’s ticket will be fiercely sought, are grappling with wrangles on how to lay the structures and accommodate diverse groups.

Aspirants for various seats are positioning themselves to play a key role in formation of the structures for fear of being edged out by serving MPs and governors. Bagging the party ticket is expected to give the candidates a head-start in Jubilee strongholds with the planned merger of the coalition affiliate parties by March 31.

A meeting at State House in December last year and attended by Jubilee elected leaders endorsed the new party and mandated them to spearhead setting up of its organs in the counties. In a bid to devolve decision making and avoid damaging fall-outs during party nominations, the party seeks to devolve decision making through creation of a County Election Board.

As most party decisions will be made at the county level, supremacy battles have emerged, with demands for exclusivity in setting up the county structures. “We will not allow a situation where significant blocks that campaigned and supported Jubilee are sidelined by elected leaders. It is unacceptable that youths were recently left out of a key of Nakuru leaders to discuss the new party,” said a Nakuru Jubilee operative Charles Njehia.

The meeting was prompted by a list of purported county party officials circulating in the county, causing confusion among party officials.

The merger of the Jubilee parties is intended to convert it into a monolith tailored along the likes of South Africa’s Africa National Congress (ANC) or the Chama Cha Mapinduzi. Aspirants in Jubilee strongholds fear failure to secure the party ticket during nominations organised by partisan county party officials could sound the death knell to their political ambition. “Going by past nominations processes, it will be interesting to see how the Jubilee party handles the formation of the party and later conducts the nominations, especially in strongholds like Nakuru,” a political observer Joseph Omondi said.

Jubilee Party is also not sitting comfortably in Central Kenya because different political formations like PNU have some of their members refusing to fold up to join other parties other than President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee.

Nyeri JAP Chairman Wambugu Nyamu said MPs felt sidelined in formation of the party, hence their plans to wreck JAP. “They wanted to be in the coordinating committees, but since JAP had established structures in all 47 counties, they wrecked the plans to kill the party so that they can form an establishment where they will be calling the shots,” said Nyamu.

“We do not expect Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi who has declared he will contest as a governor to run in the same party with the Governor Peter Munya, who was in the first place opposed to dissolution of Alliance Party of Kenya (APK). It is common knowledge that they will part ways and will only meet at the main ballot paper in different parties,” said Nyamu.

Besides Munya, Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto have also openly opposed dissolution of affiliate parties, saying URP’s agenda is not fully represented in the proposed merger. “I am not scared of deadlines to dissolve parties that sent us into power to join a political outfit that does not address people’s interests. Voters will decide who to vote for and who to send home,” he said.

Gilgil parliamentary seat aspirant Moses Gitonga warns that any attempt by Jubilee to lock out interested aspirants from being involved in its formation will be resisted and the new party should move together with all its supporters in order to cultivate trust.

“Some of us who have been participated in party nominations usually know what to expect and that is why we expect President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto to ensure the new party will be different,” said Gitonga. But national JAP Vice Chairman David Murathe said it was premature to talk about being locked out of a yet to be formed Jubilee Party as its structures are still being established.

“We have a long way to go but we cannot stop those enthusiastic about selling the party. We are currently engaging different groups so they can buy the idea of a merger,” said the former Gatanga MP.

Murathe allayed fears that elected leaders would have a head-start, saying the nomination would be free and fair and will be conducted and supervised by credible teams.

A number of activities are lined up in the counties before affiliate parties which have agreed to the merger hold their National Delegate Conference to sanction the deal. With the party expected to be launched on March 31, the team spearheading the party formation has been working round the clock to finalise on its flag, colours and constitution. Plans to finalise the merger by December 31 last year hit a snag after some of the affiliate parties beat a retreat on the proposal to have them dissolve.

Murathe said President Uhuru Kenyatta would soon hold a meeting with all elected Jubilee Members of the County Assembly as part of the engagement forum to take elected leaders through the Jubilee merger idea. “People are jumping the gun but there are procedures that we have to follow and that is why in Kericho it is the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) which fielded a candidate as it is the one currently officially registered,” he added.

Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua also dismissed claims that elected leaders intend to hijack the party, saying they should be allowed to steer its formation as there is no leadership vacuum.

“Once we are through with forming the structures whoever is interested can come out and contest whichever seat they prefer but we cannot operate as if there is vacuum,” said Mbugua.

Njoro MP Joseph Kiuna says Jubilee leaders should concentrate on mobilising their stronghold to acquire identity cards (IDs) and register as voters instead of engaging in supremacy contests.

“Every battle has its own strategy and the best way for us in Jubilee to win the 2017 elections is to ensure our supporters have IDs and register in big numbers and finally sensitise them on the need to come out and vote,” said Kiuna. Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri said aspirants intending to use the Jubilee ticket should not panic as the party will seek to accommodate everyone.

He said fears among non-elected leaders are misplaced and caused by mistakes during nominations, which Jubilee wants to avoid.