Jubilee’s independent leaders in the Rift Valley who have resisted attempts to fold the United Republican Party (URP) and merge it with the yet-to-be launched Jubilee Party (JP) may have some ground to stand on now that room has been created for the new political party to enter into coalition arrangements with other parties.
JP’s constitution expressly allows for coalitions with political parties which share its ideals.
The constitution handed over to inaugural party leader Uhuru Kenyatta last week says the National Executive Committee may pass a resolution to merge with any other political party or parties.
The merger may involve dissolution of those other parties to join Jubilee or dissolution of Jubilee itself. However the process of dissolution of Jubilee is more elaborate involving NEC, a special panel and National Delegates Convention.
“A decision to merge with other Parties shall be by a resolution of the NDC supported by two thirds of all delegates entitled to attend and vote, provided any delegate opposed to the merger may register at a desk set up at the Convention for that purpose, and the merger shall be construed to have failed if opposed by more than one third of the delegates entitled to attend and vote at the NDC,” the constitution says.
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“The post-election coalition shall be purely for purposes of addressing the Parliamentary strength of the Jubilee Party in Parliament and or in the County Assemblies,” the constitution says.
Whether this will change the conversation between leaders who had been branded rebels for resisting the merger, and Deputy President William Ruto, a strong proponent for the merger, remains to be seen.
The anti-merger brigade in DP Ruto’s Rift Valley political backyard has been unwavering.
Emurua Dikirr MP Johanna Ng’eno said Jubilee supporters should not be coerced into joining JP, and noted that the amalgamation of parties should be done within the law. “There are choices and people should be allowed to independently choose. The merger should not be viewed as it is either God or Satan. People who have opposed the merger should not be condemned,” said Ng’eno.
In the past, the Deputy President has been quite firm that Jubilee’s supporters in the Rift Valley should prepare for the folding up of the URP political party he leads to join JP.
Some believe the measure of resistance the DP’s proposal has received is driven by fears that independent voices in the Rift Valley could be locked out in backroom manoeuvrings during the JP party nominations. Some of the Deputy President’s critics are contemplating finding other vehicles to use in the 2017 elections, as President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto drum up support for the merger of TNA, URP and some smaller parties to build a stronger political party.
President Kenyatta has already been named JP leader with Ruto as his deputy ahead of the party’s launch next month.
Those Rift Valley leaders who have resisted the merger say although they will support Uhuru when he runs for president next year, they want to be allowed to remain in their independentparties and field candidates for other elective positions.
Ruto has over the last few months upped efforts to consolidate support for JP in the region and has insisted that those left behind will not be allowed to work with the new outfit. But that position may now be untenable given that the JP constitution unveiled last week provides for pre-elections and post-elections coalitions besides mergers.
Among the local leaders who have resisted moving into the new party are those allied to former ruling party Kanu and some independent Jubilee leaders, notably Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto.
The DP has over the last two months made an extensive tour of the region and paid particular attention to Baringo County, the backyard of Senator Gideon Moi, as he tries to weaken Kanu’s grip on the region.
Emurua Dikirr’s Ng’eno, a vocal critic of the DP, supports the independent position taken by some Rift Valley leaders.
“Some people are worried about the position taken by Kanu and Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) that they will remain independent. People should not be insulted just because they are brave enough to make their own decisions.” The MP said the Deputy President was worried because of the growing clout enjoyed by Kanu and CCM, led by governor Ruto. And that is why he has been frequently attacking the leadership of those parties at his meetings in Rift Valley, says Ng’eno.
He sees the possibility of Kanu and CCM creating pre-election agreements to work with the Jubilee presidency in 2017, but the two parties will remain independent and field candidates for the other elective posts, Ng’eno adds.
“The parties will not deny Jubilee the presidential votes. Some popular candidates seeking other elective positions may be denied tickets by Jubilee and may pick Kanu or CCM as their home. They will pledge loyalty to the leaders of these parties and not DP and that is what he (Ruto) is worried about, thus his persistent calls for dissolution of parties,” he says.
Ng’eno, who was elected on a Kenya National Congress (KNC) ticket in 2013, said democracy should be allowed to flourish.
Governor Ruto, the CCM leader, maintains he will not join JP, saying some of its senior leaders already have their “favourite candidates” for elective positions in 2017.
“We can discuss our support for the Presidency in Jubilee Party, but we will have CCM candidates for the other positions. We want to push for more representation of grassroot citizens in decision-making, more attention to health, education, better roads, opportunities for youths, among others,” says Governor Ruto.
Besides cushioning them from nomination uncertainties, the rebels hope to use their small parties as a bargaining platform in a pre or post-election deal.
However, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi has supported the position taken by the DP. “The coalition deal is clear that we will vote for Uhuru in 2017 and Ruto in 2022 and there is no doubt about it. It is a gradual process to achieve the set goals and we need to tread in unity,” says Sudi.
Kanu leaders, including West Pokot Senator John Lonyangapuo, have also indicated they will rally behind Uhuru’s re-election bid, but the party would remain independent and field candidates in all the other positions.
“We voted for Jubilee and Uhuru in the last polls and if the DP is insulting leaders, then he is insulting everyone who voted for Jubilee,” Lonyangapuo said recently. Kanu leaders have also resisted the JP overtures, including West Pokot County Assembly Majority Simon Kalekem. But West Pokot Governor Simon Kachapin and others have announced they would join Jubilee.