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Law on party hopping haunts Kenyan political leaders

POLITICS
By Rawlings Otieno and Wilfred Ayaga | February 7th 2017
Dr Kilemi Mwiria

The elections law that signalled the death of party-hopping has come to haunt President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga in their political bedrocks.

Although the Elections Laws (Amendments) Act 2016 was meant to lock in key allies of the two, recent defections and realignments show that 'six-piece' voting will be a tall order in most counties.

Aware that nominations for the 2017 polls, especially in areas perceived as strongholds for the political rivals, may not be fair, some aspirants are now reaching out to smaller parties to secure nominations and subsequent participation in the August polls.

The law gives significant provisions by placing restrictions on changing parties so close to the elections.

According to the law, politicians would be forced to choose their parties at least 90 days to the elections, after the Elections Act was changed to make it mandatory for parties to submit lists of members to the electoral commission within that time.

"After the names of candidates are forwarded to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, a candidate who changes their party shall not be eligible to contest in an election, as a candidate of the new party or as an independent candidate," reads part of the law.

Former presidential adviser on education Kilemi Mwiria quit Jubilee Party last week, citing frustration.

Dr Mwiria said it would be naive of him to face Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi in the nominations knowing very well that his chances of clinching the ticket were minimal.

Mwiria, who unsuccessfully vied for the governor's seat in 2013 and lost to the Peter Munya, explained that he took the bold step so he could increase his chances of being the next Meru governor.

"I left Jubilee because it was proving very difficult to be in it. I have already shared with the President my desire to vie through the Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) party," said Mwiria.

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

In Embu, Senator Lenny Kivuti, an Uhuru ally, quit Jubilee Party and joined MCC, saying the conditions and political environment in JP were too unfavourable to guarantee him a fair chance in the forthcoming nominations.

Mr Kivuti, who is eyeing the Embu governorship alongside Runyenjes MP Cecil Mbarire and the incumbent, Martin Wambora, both on a Jubilee ticket, said MCC had the principles of governance that he aspires to inculcate in Embu.

The jostling for positions within Jubilee has resulted in fallouts in the county. Recently, Governor Wambora said he was disappointed that the Speaker in his county assembly had been appointed the Jubilee director of elections.

The Speaker is allied to Wambora's potential rival for the governorship, Ms Mbarire.

However, Jubilee Secretariat head Raphael Tuju said members decamping to other parties supporting the President's re-election were only doing so for strategic reasons.

He said the party would unveil the National Elections Board (NEB) soon after the voter registration was complete and assured aspirants that the party was putting systems in place that would guarantee the sanctity and integrity of the nominations.

"How do they claim the nominations will not be free and fair when we have not even formed the National Elections Board? Your guess is as good as mine why they are leaving for other parties," said Mr Tuju.

Some aspirants in Raila's backyard have also joined small parties, including Movement for Growth and Democracy (MGD) and Philip Obonyo's Federal Party of Kenya (FPK).

Already, 30 sitting MPs both from Jubilee and ODM are said to have developed cold feet in submitting their details ahead of the party primaries for fear of being rigged out.

Instead, The Standard has learnt, the members have secretly filled out forms and expressed interest in vying through FPK.

For instance, Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma is seeking a second term but is facing an uphill task against his senator, Anyang Nyong'o, and Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga, who is Raila's sister.

Prof Nyong'o is a close ally of the ODM party leader and a former secretary general of the party.

In Siaya, Governor Cornel Rasanga will be facing nominations against his senator, James Orengo, Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo and businessman William Oduol.

Justice Aggrey Muchelule nullified Governor Cornel Rasanga's March 2013 election following a petition filed on April 8 by Mr Oduol.

He vied on a National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAPK) ticket, but Rasanga retained his seat in a by-election with 106,730 votes against Oduol's 62,444.

In Migori, Governor Okoth Obado, who had decamped from ODM following shambolic nominations and joined Omingo Magara's People's Democratic Party (PDP), is seeking to retain his seat.

CLOSE ALLY

Already, former Energy minister Ochillo Ayako, a Raila ally, and Anne Anyanga, the wife of Nyatike MP Edick Anyanga, have sworn to unseat Mr Obado.

And in Narok, Governor Samuel Tunai, a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto, will be defending his seat against Narok West MP Patrick ole Ntutu, who has decamped from Jubilee and joined Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto's Chama Cha Mashinani.

Whoever wins the Jubilee ticket will face it off with former Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Principal Secretary Joseph Tiampati (ODM) in the race for governor.

Dr Tiampati is vying for the seat for a second time after losing to Mr Tunai.

ODM Executive Director Oduor Ong'wen said systems had been changed to guarantee credible nominations.

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