Delaying tactics to manage competing interests within their political formations informed the strong push by Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to seek more time to name their running mates.
On Tuesday, Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga’s camps fought to postpone tomorrow’s deadline to submit names of their number twos, forcing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commision (IEBC) to extend the cut-off date by 20 more days.
This came even as it emerged that Mr Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party was planning an elaborate process to pick its candidate, with plans to hold yet another National Delegates Convention (NDC) on May 14 to approve the nominee.
Azimio has set up an advisory panel sanctioned by its council—a top decision making organ chaired by President Kenyatta—to recommend potential nominees. IEBC had set April 28 as the deadline for handing in the names of presidential candidates and their running mates. The deadline also applied to aspirants in gubernatorial contests, who now also have until May 16 to submit the names.
Yesterday, Dr Ruto’s team led by United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Secretary-General Veronica Maina and Chama Cha Kazi leader Moses Kuria joined Mr Odinga’s Azimio team—Executive Director Raphael Tuju and Secretary-General Junet Mohammed, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna and advocates Paul Mwangi, Otiende Amollo and Tom Macharia—in meeting with IEBC officials that led to the extension.
Even though Dr Ruto’s and Mr Odinga’s camps insisted that their push for the extension was informed by the law and need for time for wider consultations, the Nation established that the two camps backed the delay as a matter of strategy.
“On the sidelines, as we had discussions with both camps, we realised they simply want to manage competing interests in their camps and contain their supporters. Otherwise, if today’s deadline was cast in stone, they would submit the names,” a source at IEBC’s Anniversary Towers offices told the Nation. IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, flanked by CEO Marjan Hussein and Commissioners Irene Masit and Abdi Guliye, announced that the extension was due to stakeholder consultations, which he said they are bound to conduct by law.
Representatives from Paul Muite’s Safina party, which is fronting businessman Jimi Wanjigi for the top job, as well as independent candidate Nixon Kukubo, also attended the meeting.
Mr Kukubo, a 2007 elections loser, was also at the IEBC offices yesterday where he announced plans to reach out to the independent candidates to form a “third force for the August elections.”
Mr Chebukati explained that the deadline for submission of the names of aspirants for National Assembly, Senate, woman representative and county assembly seats remains tomorrow.
“This is mainly to give the commission a chance to submit those names to Chapter Six institutions so that they can carry out due diligence on the aspirants,” the chairman said. He said the same will be done for presidential and gubernatorial candidates and their running mates before pre-nomination meetings on May 23. Chapter Six institutions are Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Judiciary, State Law Office, Commission of University Education and Office of the Director Public Prosecutions.
Ms Maina said UDA needed more time to pick the right candidate:“We are glad [for the postponement] as this will enable us to consult more widely.”
Mr Tuju said that all the parties were in agreement on the need for an extension “even though we felt that our push was backed by the law.”
“Within the context of consensus, there was no other contested issue as far as that matter is concerned. So our position was that,because the [Azimio] council and our structures are recognised by the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, we are going to end up in a situation where, if we violate our own processes ,there is going to be conflict with two government agencies—ORPP and IEBC. That’s why we asked for an extension,” Mr Tuju told the Nation.
Mr Mohammed said the extension now allows Mr Odinga’s camp to plan well.
“It now gives us ample time to allow the advisory panel to do its work as agreed upon by the council,” he told the Nation.
Mr Mwangi, who is Mr Odinga’s lawyer, said the team was working round the clock to pick the best running mate within the stipulated time.
The Nation has established that Mr Odinga’s camp was planning to have all its 26 constituent parties part of the decision-making on the running mate position to foster dialogue and consultation among member parties. This is said to have influenced the decision to hold the coalition party’s NDC on May 14 to approve the nominee submitted by the advisory panel, so that the name can be presented to the IEBC together with Mr Odinga’s on May 16.
In the Azimio camp, reports indicate, the race for running mate has been narrowed down to Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, even though Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya’s name also still features prominently.
In the DP’s camp, Tharaka-Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi are also said to top his list of possible running mates.
UDA wrote to IEBC on April 19 disputing the April 28 deadline.
In the letter seen by the Nation, UDA told IEBC that, should the parties submit a list of persons nominated to elective posts who will contest in the August polls by April 28, it will be 100 days to the polls and not 90 days as stipulated in the law.
Instead, UDA argued the correct timeline would be from May 29th to June 9, a period that allows a 10-day dispute resolution window, citing a gazette notice by the commission that stipulated timelines for nomination of candidates by parties to the commission. UDA argued that article 131 (1) of the Elections Act of 2011 as amended in 2017 states that “a political party shall nominate its candidate for an election under this Act at least 90 days before General Election under this Act in accordance with its constitution and nomination rules.”
“While UDA wishes to re-emphasise our commitment to complying with all the electoral timelines set by your office, given the sensitivity of the matter as well as the varied interpretation of the same across the political divide, we seek that your office clarifies this position officially,” read the letter by Ms Maina.