Kalonzo’s only options in case of Azimio running mate stalemate 

Kalonzo Musyoka

Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka during an interview at the SKM Command Centre in Karen, Nairobi, on April 27.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Frustrated in the deputy president hunt, Kalonzo can neither bolt out of Azimio nor wage a lone battle.
  • Coalition agreement states that no party may withdraw six months before the August General Election.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka has two options in the event of a falling-out in Azimio One Kenya coalition party over the choice of running mate. 

But only one is entirely within his powers — walking out of the coalition party as an individual and charting whichever political path he wishes, including backing Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential bid. 

This would be the only way to wriggle out of the coalition agreement Wiper signed with other parties to the coalition party, which has fronted Mr Raila Odinga as its presidential flag-bearer, without attracting legal action. 

“As an individual, Kalonzo has all the rights of endorsing whomever he prefers, even if in violation of his party’s stand. It will be for the party to take him on if such is the case,” argues constitutional lawyer Bob Mkangi. 

The other option is for Wiper to disregard the coalition agreement, which the party insists is based on a flawed premise, to still present Mr Kalonzo as the presidential candidate on May 16. 

However, the party would be bogged down in a legal dispute with Mr Odinga’s camp, which would cite the strict provision that locks in affiliate parties by requiring a three-month notice to quit before the August 9 polls. 

Even with the notice, the coalition party’s top organ, a council chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, must review the reasons for Wiper to quit before the exit can be approved by the Registrar of Political Parties. Yesterday, the registrar, Ann Nderitu, said any party can leave the coalition so long as it complies with the provisions of their agreement.

“For leaving and getting in, it depends on the provisions of a coalition agreement of a political party.”

But the fact that the registrar has since thwarted an attempt by Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi’s Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) to exit Azimio, instead directing they fulfil the coalition agreement, is a pointer to the cumbersome exit clause. 

“I am not sure of the contents of the list of candidates Wiper presented to IEBC,” Mr Mkangi said, alluding to the April 9 submission by parties to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission lists of nominees for various seats. 

“It may do so,” Mr Mkangi, who was a member of the committee of experts that wrote the Constitution, said in response to a query on whether Wiper can still present Mr Musyoka as its presidential candidate, but with the rider that it would be “in violation of its obligations under the Azimio-One Kenya agreement, of which it will face the consequences of the breach” as an institution.

“But the reality and effect would be that it would have already signalled to its followers’ the direction to take,” he added. 

Makueni senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, the Wiper vice chairman, rejected claims that Mr Musyoka was doing Dr Ruto’s bidding to force Mr Odinga to name him as running mate to clear the way for the DP to name Mr Musalia Mudavadi.

“The allegations suggest that all those who have raised concern on this process are on the payroll of DP. Before joining Azimio, he (Kalonzo) was clear to the leadership of Wiper that he had no such plans. Our plan B has always been for Kalonzo to run on his own,” Mr Kilonzo said.

He added without elaborating that Wiper will “consider its options in Azimio appropriately.”

A pre-election coalition deal between Wiper and the Kenya Kwanza coalition led by Dr Ruto, besides again being frustrated by the legal dispute about exiting Azimio, would be a race against time as the deadline for submission of the agreement is May 8. 

And he is time-barred too to run as an independent given the May 2 deadline. Yesterday, Wiper vice chairman Victor Ogeto said the party will not present Mr Musyoka as a presidential candidate because it had already declared support for Mr Odinga but warned their partners in Azimio against any political shenanigans.

“You know the Political Parties Act provides democratic space that is inherent of many options prior to and post elections. Our partners must know that the journey has just started. We need each other more internally as we are needed externally. Therefore, it is important for the internal environment to be friendly,” Mr Ogeto said.

“For now, I agree with our party leader’s decision to put to rest the issue of running mate. I am sure as a party we never run out of options.”

Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu said they will accept results from the panel interviewing potential running mates to Mr Odinga, even if Mr Musyoka is not picked, if the process will be free and fair.

“What we want is fairness, even if they don’t pick Kalonzo. They must tell us why they have settled on a particular candidate and what s/he is bringing to the table that Kalonzo was not able to provide. What we don’t want is subjecting our party leader to humiliation as if he has no options,” Dr Mulu said. 

Asked during an interview with the Nation last week about his next move should he not get the running mate position, Mr Musyoka replied, “We will cross that bridge when we get there.”

The Wiper party leader, however, is apparently tied to Azimio as he cannot bolt out given the provision that stipulates that a party has to give three months’ notice to the council of its intentions and reasons for quitting. Although the council has no powers to stop a party from moving out, it must ensure such a party has no debt to the coalition. 

“No party may withdraw from the coalition six months before the August 2022 General Election or within three months after the date of the said general election,” reads Article 22 of the agreement.