Hopes, fears as top leaders seek coalitions ahead of next year's race to State House
By Jacob Ng'etich
| July 23rd 2021
As the clock ticks towards the General Election, a number of political parties are in quagmire on how to craft a winning coalition pact and succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Uhuru's Jubilee Party, Raila Odinga's ODM, United Democratic Alliance associated with Deputy President William Ruto and the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) bring together four constituent parties and are in a race against time on which political marriage will best cater for their interests ahead of the epic election on August 9, 2022.
It seems the groupings are targeting to put breaks on Deputy President William Ruto's race to State House, who has dared them to bring it on. On Wednesday, while addressing a group of business people in Machakos town, the DP called on his opponents to build a formidable coalition to face him.
And Uhuru has not shied away from rallying the Opposition leaders to work together in readiness for the next polls even as this ignited a fierce criticism for his deputy. And yesterday, in a private hard-hitting, yet imploring letter, to the Opposition leaders, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions Secretary-General Francis Atwoli, pleads with the ODM, Wiper, ANC, Ford-Kenya and Kanu party leaders “to come together and forget talking about being suspicious of one another, political mistrust, betrayals and false promises”.
In the past month, there has been efforts to have Uhuru and Raila parties forge a coalition and on Tuesday, OKA principals moved a notch higher their quest to create an alliance that will bring together ANC, Wiper, Kanu and Ford Kenya.
The leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya) met to review progress of their parties as they seek a pact to present a joint presidential candidate. However, the journey for coalition making for Jubilee Party and ODM, and that of OKA is replete with thorns that are threatening to hinder realisation of the top politicians pact, crafted either as a grand coalition or alliances to take on Ruto.
When the talk of Uhuru and Raila parties’ alliances emerged, a section of party members from both outfits had mixed reaction over the planned merger that would see the union of two Kenya's biggest parties in both parliamentary and membership strength. Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju had confided a month ago that there were plans for Jubilee to team up with ODM ahead of 2022 elections, a statement affirmed by ODM chair John Mbadi.
The two had indicated that talks were in top gear to have the parties come up with a coalition. But the proposed merger was, however, thrown into a spin after certain members of the National Executive Council (NEC) opposed the plot, saying they would rather work with all parties in the now-defunct NASA coalition.
Those opposed to the arrangement led by Deputy Secretary-General Joshua Kutuny said efforts should be directed at reviving and revamping Jubilee rather than welcoming foreign additions. But in an interview with The Standard on Wednesday, Tuju said the ruling party has not entered into a coalition with ODM, but the two parties are in a gentleman’s agreement that guarantees peace and stability.
“There is no Jubilee-ODM merger, Jubilee needed ODM in both Houses of Parliament to ensure the Government’s transformation agenda faces little opposition in the law-making organs,” he said during the News Hour show.
“The two parties are just in a mutual understanding to promote peace and unite all Kenyans,” added Tuju.
Muranga County MP and ally of Uhuru Sabina Chege said their meeting with the JP leadership resolved to build on the party structures.
"We are taking stock of performance in the by-elections and we have agreed that we need to work on our structures," she said denying any discussions on the Jubilee/ODM pact.
Vice-chairman David Murathe reaffirmed that the talks with ODM is still intact and not affected by recent series of losses even as he admitted that there are issues affecting the party that should be addressed, including hemorrhage of members. Laikipia County MP Catherine Waruguru accused the leadership of dusting issues and said the party is in limbo.
Yesterday, Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo said Jubilee needed to go back and clean its house, before having any arrangement with ODM. "I think the implication is that the president realises now he has to put his house in order. You could have a house with many people who don't share the same aspiration. Jubilee needs to clean the house before we finally we get to a structured conversation around forming a coalition with them," said Odhiambo.
He said their merger with Jubilee was on the basis they support Raila as the presidential candidates and other positions would be discussed.
"We do not necessarily need Jubilee to win an election. The two elections Raila has won, they say he was rigged. He did not need central Kenya to win. But if you have Jubilee with you, then for the first time we will have the advantage of Mt Kenya Kenya votes. And that will leverage his candidature," said Odhiambo.
Alego Usonga MP Samwel Atandi said they have been working together to allow the Government deliver.
"We are ready and determined, we believe Jubilee is the Government and the party of the day. And that we will work together in the next General Election,” said Atandi.
The risk for ODM is that any coalition with Jubilee in the coming months could see them lose their position as the the minority party to their Wiper counterpart. What that means is that Minority leaders in the National Assembly and Senate and minority whips will be relinquished to Wiper.
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