Jubilee Party is working towards March elections after it emerged that postponing the polls was not possible because wrangling factions cannot reach a compromise.
To postpone the party polls, a resolution by the National Executive Committee (NEC) is required, a tall order for feuding camps allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
The party has not convened a Parliamentary Group meeting for two years with Uhuru’s camp dismissing persistent calls by Ruto’s team.
Now the party is in a catch-22 situation with the deadline set by the Registrar of Political Parties to unveil substantive office holders’ fast approaching.
Some members have, however, raised fears that the polls could mark the beginning of a bitter political divorce if the growing wrangles are not resolved.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja warned the party risks tearing apart if the elections are held amid the ongoing wrangles.
Mr Sakaja, an Uhuru ally, talked of efforts to bring together the warring factions to allow for a proper election of party officials.
Tearing party apart
“We can’t have the elections in the current political mood. We must close ranks to avoid tearing the party (apart) completely,” said Sakaja.
The senator, who has remained out of the political bickering in the ruling party, said there was an ongoing behind-the-scenes discussion to reach a consensus on some of the disagreements before the polls are held.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, an ally of the DP, claimed Uhuru’s camp was already scared of their numbers.
Barasa said the rival camp has no option but to agree for the polls to be conducted by March to comply with the requirements of the political parties’ law.
He said that failure to hold the exercise would force Uhuru to convene a parliamentary group meeting, in which, he said, the Tangatanga camp would have its way.
“Uhuru is scared of our numbers and that is why he has refused to call for a parliamentary group meeting. If he were to call for a meeting to discuss the polls, he would be chairing it as Jubilee Party leader and not the president, and we will force him to follow the demands of the majority,” said Baraza.
He said Ruto’s camp is prepared to proceed with the exercise while chiding their rival camp that they are free to boycott it if they are not ready.
Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju yesterday told The Standard that the party is bound by the law to conduct credible polls and its constitution provides for the use of an independent board to steer the exercise.
Mr Tuju disclosed that the party might enlist the services of the electoral commission because its elections board as currently constituted may not have the required capacity.
“I plan to hold the elections, starting March in the counties. If it doesn’t happen, we will have the NEC resolutions communicated to the registrar,” he said.
At the same time, Tuju stressed that elections cannot be imposed on the party.
“We want to do things properly. Jubilee is a public institution funded by taxpayers and, therefore, any shady process will be challenged in court. We will conduct the polls in a manner that adheres to our constitution, the Constitution and the Political Parties Act,” he said.
On his planned ouster by Tangatanga, he said a political contest must be competitive and he would be surprised if there was no line-up.
“I doesn’t worry me. We will approach IEBC like we did with our party primaries in 2017. However, it was not possible because of the general elections it lacked capacity and budget,” he said.
National Assembly Majority Whip Ben Washiali - who is eyeing the party chair’s position - and former deputy Secretary General Caleb Kositany (Soy) - who has projected himself as the chair of team ‘New Jubilee’ faction scouting for new leaders to inject fresh blood - are among those who have declared interest.
Mr Washiali yesterday ruled out the option of postponing the elections, stressing that it’s critical and if delayed would interfere with the 2022 polls.
“The internal election if done early will allow time for healing. The interim officials have stayed far too long. We better do elections now,” he said.
He said he was ready to take up the position of chair based on his wealth of experience in running parties.
He was party leader of the defunct UDF and former Kanu NEC member (western) when Kenyatta was chair and Ruto secretary general.
According to the Registrar of Political Parties Ann Nderitu, Jubilee deposited its documents with her office in 2017, requesting to have the interim officials serve for three years.
Ms Nderitu is, however, categorical that party elections are an internal affairs and, therefore, if it cannot meet the deadline set, the NEC meeting can resolve to postpone and notify her office, giving reasons and way forward.
Leading by example
Tuju said the ruling party owes it to Kenyans to lead by example by conducting credible party elections for office bearers.
“There is a check list that we are embarking on with immediate effect so that we do not end up with a shambolic process. We have to learn from the lessons of 2017 when we were operating in a stampede to comply with IEBC election calendar,” he said.
He said the checklist will include presentation of the members register for public scrutiny, working together with party’s IT team and the Registrar of Political Parties and cleaning of the register if any inconsistencies are found.
“We will be convening a leadership meeting so that issues about these elections are understood as per our constitution and the laws of Kenya as opposed to an obtaining trend of noises in the political market place in rallies and funerals,” said Tuju.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech said as a party, they don’t intend to flout any law they passed, including the requirement to fill up positions currently held on an interim basis.
“We are, however, alive to the importance of the party elections, especially for a big party like Jubilee. If we decide to go full gear into party polls now we shall have to put aside a lot of things including the Big Four Agenda, work in our constituencies and even the BBI itself will have to take a break,” warned the DP ally.
He added: “In my opinion we would rather convene a NEC meeting and resolve to extend the term of the interim officials until such a time that we will have less work to do so.”
Nominated MP David Sankok was moderate over the looming face-off, saying that Uhuru and Ruto would still remain the party leader and deputy respectively.
Mr Sankok said the planned polls would rejuvenate the party ahead of the next General Election.