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Headache for Uhuru and Ruto as scramble for top party posts starts

POLITICS
By Moses Nyamori | September 5th 2016
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto commission the rehabilitated Mkanda Dam water supply project in Mwabandari, Kwale County. Also present was Lunga Lunga MP Abdalla Mwashetani. [PHOTO: PSCU]

Nairobi: President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are facing a fresh dilemma in picking Jubilee Party interim officials without hurting political partners in the merger.

Apart from the scramble for 19 key slots up for grabs in the new outfit, the merger process is also being threatened by court orders barring some of the dissolving parties from closing shop ahead of the official launch on Saturday. Various political parties and groups yesterday made known their demands for the crucial positions in the new outfit, which Uhuru and Ruto will use to vie for re-election in next year's polls.

Leaders from Western demanded the region be given the secretary general and treasurer posts so as to address regional balance and create a sense of belonging among voters.

At the same time, a political lobby group has asked that Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi be considered for the powerful position of secretary general.

New Ford Kenya leader and Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka yesterday said it would only be fair if the party were given the secretary general's position.

He said giving the region national positions would help leaders fight political propaganda that they had sold their parties to Jubilee and also sell the party in the region perceived to be in the Opposition CORD.

"It will help us dispel rumours that we have sold our parties to Jubilee.

"It will also give us a good platform to sell the new outfit in Western and also address the issue of inclusion," noted Mr Lusaka.

The President, who is also The National Alliance (TNA) party leader, and Ruto who is the United Republican Party head, will hold interim party leader and deputy party leader slots respectively. That leaves 19 positions to be filled out of the 21 national positions in the new political body.

According to the new outfit's pre-merger agreement, parliamentary strength would be a key determinant of how the national positions would be shared out.

Uhuru's TNA has eight governors, 72 MPs, 14 woman representatives, 10 senators and 353 members of the county assembly (MCAs), bringing the total to 458 elected leaders.

The URP has 10 governors, nine senators, 62 MPs, 10 woman representatives and 248 MCAs, bringing the total of elected leaders to 339.

"Already, the party leader is from TNA and his deputy is from URP. If you go by party strength, then it is New Ford Kenya to be considered for the third senior-most position," said Lusaka.

The governor said New Ford Kenya and United Democratic Front (UDF), both having a presence in Western region, should be given priority over Kiraitu's Alliance Party of Kenya (APK). He argued that the latter was from "the same region as Uhuru".

But Mt Kenya Youth Caucus said Kiraitu was best suited for the post, citing his role in forming the new outfit and his experience in politics. Kiraitu and Noah Wekesa co-chaired talks on the merger.

"The secretary general seat to be anchored as a post in the new party will require the services of an experienced individual, and the caucus sees the senator as best-placed to handle the matters in the huge political party and to retain cohesion," said Linford Mutembei, the group's co-ordinator.

Wekesa said the responsibility of picking key party officials lay squarely with Uhuru and Ruto.

KEY POSITIONS

"That is in the realm of party leaders Uhuru and Ruto. It is their responsibility to see how best to fill the positions," he said while cautioning that leaders should consider giving some of the key positions to Western and Kisii regions to create a sense of belonging in those areas who have "shown interest in decamping to Jubilee".

"It is also important for the leadership to look at the bloc of votes, not in the past polls but according to the ongoing political realignments. People in Western and Kisii regions have indicated their willingness to join Jubilee and would feel they were not part of the party if they were given small posts," added Wekesa.

New Ford Kenya, which was the first party to announce its intention to dissolve, has four MPs, one governor, two woman representatives plus a host of MCAs, the majority from Bungoma County. The UDF, which was under Musalia Mudavadi before he quit and formed Amani National Congress, has 11 MPs, one governor and two senators.

And since the Jubilee Party is yet to be registered, the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) has notified the Registrar of Political Parties that it will be renaming to Jubilee Party. JAP's secretary general, Veronica Maina, yesterday said the process of regularising the changes was on course ahead of the JAP National Delegates Convention to ratify it.

Another matter the party is grappling with is the number of delegates to attend the meeting. Reports suggest at the main convention to launch Jubilee Party, TNA will be represented by 1,650 members, URP 900 and APK 620. Other parties represented are UDF with 600 members, while the remaining parties — JAP, Republican Council, Tip Tip, New Ford Kenya, UPK, GNU and PNU — will be represented by 500 members each.

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