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Compromise candidates are the best bet for political parties

By Elias Mokua | November 25th 2021

Deputy President William Ruto receives Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru to UDA at his Karen residence, Nairobi County. [DPPS]

As political alliances position themselves for the homestretch campaigns towards the August 2022 General Election, the politics of running mates and compromise candidates are becoming increasingly relevant.

The heat of the moment is on the ODM-Jubilee-OKA wing. UDA seems quiet on whom the running mate to DP William Ruto will be. Perhaps turbulence will set in once unsuccessful running mates are invited to consider picking up other positions besides the second-in-command, which comes with substantial security of office.

The hunger for power in this country drives candidates to do the impossible. The on and off pact-signing between ODM and Jubilee, Jubilee and Oka, or a combination of both pairs hangs in the balance not just due to the hard positions held by the top candidates in the groupings, but even more because there seems to be a clear disparity of political clout among those salivating for the presidency. Two of the four gentlemen have sworn that their names will be on the ballot. Not sure if the swearing is done in principle.  

It appears the main actors in this wing of the political divide that is supposed to give UDA a run for its money are busy blackmailing each other.

Each is determined to cannibalise the other even if the result is loss for the political camp. Add to individual desires the weight of political party radicals who will hear nothing less of the presidency even if it is clear going it alone will ensure their main opponent, Ruto, romps home with ease. Not that Ruto shouldn’t celebrate a win he has tirelessly worked for. If anything, he would have ingeniously gotten them busy hammering each other to a point of losing the goal for which they are in politics.

The point is this: regardless of which political strategy political parties use to ascend to power, compromise candidates are not insurance. Of course, they are personalities that attract support from rivals hell bent to even fall together. They are the glue around which rivals settle their differences. We need them. However, compromise candidates have embedded risks.

Unless a compromise candidate has a strong base to bring to the table, the parties ceding ground will treat such a candidate with ruthlessness. No one supports another to power for being ‘a nice guy’. Compromise candidates, without proper political and social rooting, can be the most compromised when they gain power. They will be permanently beholden to the authorities that brought them to power.

Moreover, compromise candidates in the current politics can be blackmailed, treated with contempt or even be impeached by a strong opposition combined with disgruntled ruling party coalition partners. The Uhuru-Ruto regime is ending with reality check lessons that anyone settling comfortably as a compromise candidate should reflect upon. One of the lessons is that a strong political partner can breathe fire on the boss who, in the circumstance of the partnership, will have minimal power to fire back.

Further, it’s one thing to be sworn in as the legally elected leader. It is completely another to have legitimacy to govern. That is, to be in power and to have the moral power to govern are two separate realities. The handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila Odinga gave the president legitimacy to govern the whole country. In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was recently sworn in but that hasn’t given him the legitimacy he needs to rally all Ethiopians behind the national flag.

A compromise candidate in one wing of the coalition needs to be someone who can bite a little more from the main contenders. Most importantly, a compromise candidate must be a strong negotiator, patriotic to our national values and has a clear tangible vision for the country. It must be someone who has predictable personal governance principles. As a smoother, the candidate must have a sizeable voter base to command respect from like-minded parties.

The writer is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communications

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