Why Nyaki West ward was high-stakes race for UDA, Bus parties

Nyaki West UDA leaders win celebration

UDA politicians Mithika Linturi (Left), Jim Muchui (Athwana MCA elect), Mugambi Rindikiri (Buuri MP), Kathuri Mirungi (Meru Senator elect), and Kirima Ngucine (Imenti Central MP) (Right) celebrate Frederick Mubichi's (Nyaki West MCA elect) victory on August 29, 2022.

Photo credit: DAVID MUCHUI I Nation Media Group

The election of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party candidate Frederick Mubichi as MCA of Nyaki West ward in Meru has upset an attempt by the Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) to control the county assembly.

When the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) postponed the August 9 election in Nyaki West over a ballot paper anomaly, it became the deal breaker after DEP bagged 13 seats against UDA’s 12.

The Meru County Assembly is in a similar situation as in 2017, when Jubilee and the Party of National Unity (PNU) tied with 13 elected MCAs each.

DEP was banking on a Nyaki West win to secure the majority leader’s position in the assembly. On the other hand, UDA was out to force a tie and deny the Bus party the majority privilege.

The hotly contested election saw UDA’s Frederick Mubichi declared winner with 2,026 votes against DEP’s Lewis Kithinji, who garnered 1,976.

So critical was this election that UDA-allied lawmakers including Senator-elect Kathuri Murungi and MPs Mugambi Rindikiri (Buuri), John Mutunga (Tigania West), Kirima Ngucine (Imenti Central), John Paul Mwirigi (Igembe South) and several UDA ward reps pitched tent in the ward to woo voters.

“We were under clear instructions to ensure UDA wins the seat. Each leader was allocated an area to campaign for the UDA candidate. We are glad that we have won,” a UDA MCA-elect said.

Outgoing Senator Mithika Linturi led the MPs in celebrating the win at the tallying centre.

The focus now shifts to which party will clinch the majority leader position, with some arguing that coalitions will be considered.

Azimio has a majority of elected MCAs, 25, followed by Kenya Kwanza,15, and five independents.

Former Meru assembly majority leader Victor Karithi said that in 2017, the votes cast for a political party played a role in determining the majority party.

But according to Meru Speaker Joseph Kaberia, the tie between Jubilee and PNU was broken by nominations, with the former getting an extra slot.

“The majority party in the assembly will only be known after nominated MCAs are gazetted,” Mr Kaberia said. 

“Among the options available is to use parliamentary customs and precedent where the majority goes to the government of the day and use of coalition numbers. 

“The assembly standing orders define a majority leader as a member of a party or coalition with majority members.”

But he said the number of nominated MCAs, for political parties with the same number of elected ward representatives, may differ depending on party nomination lists.