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Why Raila party won’t sign coalition deal with Jubilee

By Moses Nyamori and Roselyne Obala | May 20th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

President Uhuru Kenyatta(left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past function. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga will not enter into a coalition agreement with Jubilee to form a Government of National Unity, The Standard has established.

Instead, ODM will pursue a ‘collaborative agreement’ with the ruling party, which in particular involves working together in Parliament.

The view within Mr Odinga’s camp is that his handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta is sufficient and the party does need to sign another statutory agreement that would be deposited with the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties.

This is because of the legal dilemma given ODM is a constituent party of the National Super Alliance (NASA), and a new pact with Jubilee would compel it to sever ties with the alliance.

The implication of a coalition pact with Jubilee is that ODM would effectively join the majority party, which would mean losing its minority positions in the National Assembly and Senate. 

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Losing claim

According to Article 108 of the Constitution, any move by ODM to sign a deal with Jubilee will amount to it losing its claim as the minority party by virtue of being the second-largest political party.

It states: “There shall be a leader of the majority party and a leader of the minority party. The leader of the majority party shall be the person who is the leader in the National Assembly of the largest party or coalition of parties.

“The leader of the minority party shall be the person who is the leader in the National Assembly of the second largest party or coalition of parties,” it adds.

The same would apply to Wiper, another NASA affiliate, should it sign a coalition deal with Jubilee.

John Mbadi and James Orengo are the Minority Leaders in the National Assembly and Senate, respectively.

The Minority Whips are Junet Mohamed and Mutula Kilonzo Jnr in the National Assembly and Senate, respectively. 

Apart from surrendering the role of minority party, which is essentially the opposition in the House, it has emerged that the 2022 succession politics has also informed the cautious approach by ODM.

Though Raila has not officially declared his presidential ambition for 2022, it is widely held that he is in the race to succeed President Kenyatta. Sources say his reluctance to be co-opted in government stems from the perceived liability that is the baggage of incumbency during presidential campaigns. 

Raila is reported to have made a hasty retreat from forming a coalition with Jubilee and instead guaranteed Uhuru his party will support the government agenda in Parliament without signing a formal agreement.

However, this is not to rule out behind-the-scenes horse trading where Raila is asked to nominate individuals for appointment to government.

Mr Mbadi, who is ODM’s chairman, confirmed that the Orange party has no plans to enter into a coalition agreement with the ruling party.

The Suba South MP, however, said they will continue “cooperating” with Uhuru’s administration using the political platform created by the March 9, 2018, handshake.

“We are not entering into a coalition now. What we are focused on now is continuing with the cooperation we have with the president through the handshake,” explained Mbadi.

He added: “We have agreed in principle to use the existing cooperation to support the development agenda, unity of the country, electoral reforms and now economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Initiate exit

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi has insisted either NASA is dissolved before any of the constituent parties signs a pact with another party, or the party keen to court a new partner formally leaves the alliance.

Mr Mudavadi said none of the NASA affiliates – ODM, Wiper, Ford Kenya and ANC – had initiated their exit from the minority coalition.

“We registered a coalition document that is still valid unless the constituent member parties decide to exit. We cannot be in two coalitions at the same time, the law does not allow that,” said Mudavadi in a recent interview.

“What we are seeing is individual parties trying to explore what they can do beyond NASA. Any party seeking to formalise a coalition will have to exit the NASA coalition.”

“If ODM signs the deal, being the second-largest party, it automatically becomes part of the majority party. It can no longer transact minority (opposition) business in the House. This will also be followed with the loss of the oversight committees, Public Accounts Committee and Public Investment Committee,” cautioned a Jubilee MP.

Mbadi said the party would consider entering into a new coalition in the run-up to 2022 General Election.

Raila’s party is working closely with Uhuru’s Jubilee and Kanu of Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, amid reports of a super alliance in the lead up to the 2022 presidential vote.

Kanu has since signed a post-election coalition agreement with Jubilee that saw Samuel Poghisio named Senate Majority Leader after Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, an ally of Deputy President William Ruto, was ousted.

Kanu senators and another independent lawmaker helped swell the numbers for Uhuru’s wing during a Jubilee coalition Parliamentary Group meeting that also toppled another Ruto supporter, Senator Susan Kihika as Senate Whip, replacing her with Senator Irungu Kang’ata.

Yesterday in the Senate, Mr Kang’ata gave notice of a motion to remove yet another Ruto ally, Senator Kithure Kindiki, as House Deputy Speaker.

Were ODM with 95 MPs and Wiper with 26 MPs to sign a coalition agreement with Jubilee, ANC, with 17 MPs, would be next in line to claim minority leadership in Parliament. 

“By entering into a coalition deal with Jubilee, ODM and Wiper will be required to sign the agreements and deposit them with the registrar. Once complete, the two NASA affiliate parties will have to surrender their legitimacy of the minority leadership seats in the National Assembly and Senate,” said a legislator aware of the developments.

Insiders told The Standard that Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka is open to the deal with Uhuru, while Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula has kept off the subject. Mr Wetang’ula was in 2018 dethroned as Senate Minority Leader and replaced with Mr Orengo, Raila’s close ally.  

Mr Musyoka had indicated that his party was already consulting with the other partners to “see what we can do”, even as he indicated his readiness to work with the ruling Jubilee Party. Uhuru has been courting NASA leaders to work with his government to check the hostile wing of Jubilee allied to Ruto.

Raila Odinga ODM Jubilee
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