The new law on the formation of coalitions has created a fresh headache for top politicians.
The question of how the coalitions will choose candidates for the various seats in the August 9 General Election without triggering defections has emerged as a major sticking point for the current big three political formations.
The amendments to the Political Parties Act signed into law last Thursday introduced the concept of coalition political parties, giving presidential contenders the leeway to join hands with like-minded rivals.
But ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja, Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s One Kenya Alliance (OKA) are not sitting pretty as the nominations deadline draws closer.
ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi’s political allies are already sending out signals that they will not support DP Ruto’s automatic presidential candidacy in their alliance, while Martha Karua’s camaraderie with the OKA principals poses a nomination headache for the top ticket.
Azimio la Umoja is due for registration this week, according to Mr Odinga, who appears set to be the presumptive presidential candidate, but the elephant in the room remains hammering out an agreement on how best to conduct party primaries without causing an implosion and losing disgruntled aspirants to opponents.
With more than 10 political parties backing the ODM leader’s presidential bid under the Azimio umbrella, it’s a tough task for the Odinga team to craft a nomination formula that will forestall a falling-out.
In 2017, the National Super Alliance (Nasa), on whose ticket Mr Odinga and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka ran for the presidency, comprised of five parties and was faced with numerous rivalries that saw it lose many seats in its traditional strongholds.
Nairobi, Western and Gusii regions were the most affected, as Mr Odinga bagged the presidential votes but Nasa lost many parliamentary seats.
Aware of this danger, Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign board has formed a team that is formulating rules to govern nominations under Azimio.
The board’s chief executive, Elizabeth Meyo, says they are working on how to make Azimio a mother coalition that will house both individual members and parties.
“Our plan is to bring on board as many parties as possible. A team is in place working on modalities for coordinating that process. Another team is working on rules that will govern our nominations in Azimio,” Ms Meyo said.
Mr Odinga seems to have the largest chunk of parties backing his bid, including PNU which is linked to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, Upya Movement for Northern Kenya by Treasury CS Ukur Yatani and the United Progressive Alliance and Democratic Action Party-Kenya (DAP-K) associated with Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and Defense CS Eugene Wamalwa, respectively.
Other parties that are associated with Azimio are Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu’s Narc, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap, Ubuntu Peoples’ Forum led by Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo’s Kenya Union Party, his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi’s Pan African Alliance, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi’s Devolution Empowerment Party and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana’s Muungano Party of Kenya.
“We’re very confident that we’ll attain [a] majority at all levels, from ward representatives to National Assembly, governors and Senate. We’ll make it happen,” Ms Meyo said.
Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, the chairman of the Azimio campaign board, said they’re mulling holding joint nominations in certain instances.
The Kenya Kwanza alliance comprising DP Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA), ANC and Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya has plans to zone parts of the country and only allow particular parties to field candidates in their perceived strongholds.
“We hope to agree that in this area, this party can have candidates here or not the other areas,” ANC Secretary-General Simon Gikuru said.
“It’s going to be a give-and-take situation because we’ve to accommodate each party and we want to make sure that each party is a parliamentary party.”
He hinted that in the western region for example, only Ford Kenya and ANC would field candidates.
A work in progress
“In the Rift Valley we don’t expect ANC and Ford Kenya to field any candidate while in places like Nairobi, we’ll agree on how to go about it. So it’s a work in progress,” the ANC official said.
In the Nairobi gubernatorial race, there already is simmering tension between former Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru who has been eyeing the UDA ticket, and Senator Johnson Sakaja, who wants to run on an ANC ticket.
Sources revealed that consensus or joint nominations would be conducted.
In Kakamega, former Senator Boni Khalwale has also been eyeing the governor ticket on a UDA ticket as Senator Cleophas Malala sets his sights on the same seat under ANC.
“There are certain places that we will harmonise and work out the best formula. Since we’re now working together we shall make sure we find means of accommodating each other’s interests,” Mr Gikuru said.
UDA Chairman Johnson Muthama agrees that there could be challenges for the new political formations. “This Political Parties Bill now serves every Kenyan. If it hurts Azimio, it hurts us and if it favours them it favours us,” he told the Nation.
Mr Muthama says the Kenya Kwanza partners are yet to sign any coalition terms.
Last Monday, the DP, after chairing a UDA parliamentary group meeting, said the details of the Kenya Kwanza relationship will be in documents to be filed with the Registrar of Political Parties at an appropriate time.
In OKA, which has been reeling from the loss of Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula, Mr Musyoka has vowed to go up to the ballot against Mr Odinga and the DP.
OKA groups Mr Musyoka’s Wiper party, Gideon Moi’s Kanu, Cyrus Jirongo’s United Democratic Party, Martha Karua’s Narc-Kenya and businessman Jimi Wanjigi.
Wiper’s co-vice chairmen Mutula Kilonzo Jnr and Victor Swanya said that, with the new law, it’s possible to have direct and indirect nominations.
“The coalition agreement will have a non-compete clause, that means we will not fight among ourselves,” Mr Kilonzo Jnr told the Nation.
Mr Swanya noted that the issue of offices and nominations in the alliance remains a subject of discussions and negotiations.
“We must be guided by scientific data and critical analysis where a number of factors will inform decisions that will guide the objects of the alliance’s manifestos and regional balance,” he said.
The amended Political Parties Act, he agreed, has brought serious nominations challenges, especially on mechanisms of party member registration and authenticating members’ records.
“The resources required and time before the next election to carry out the exercise have caught most parties unprepared and may affect small parties. Wiper as a party has elaborate regulations and procedures. However, we’ll consider new avenues allowed by the amendments, that is, nomination by delegates where applicable,” he said.
Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat also said there is a possibility of holding joint nominations in the alliance.
“This is not necessarily for us, but for all political parties intending to enter into an alliance. Our technical team will sit and deliberate on how we can harmoniously derive a winning formula and get benefits from this new act,” Mr Salat said.
Some Odinga backers, however, feel that allowing individual parties to field candidates may pose challenges similar to those witnessed in Nasa and believe that candidates should fly purely Azimio flags. But this could trigger opposition from constituent parties under [it] as it’s likely to be seen as killing their identities.
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said the party has already started deploying scientific methods to identify popular candidates to fly the party’s flag.
“We’re conducting own opinion polls to determine various popular aspirants,” he said.
DAP-K Secretary-General Eseli Simiyu said the party is awaiting the signing of the coalition agreement under Azimio.
“We need to see what the coalition agreement says first. We’ll have to negotiate that coalition agreement and after that is when we’ll determine how best we’re doing the nominations,” Dr Simiyu said.
In Nairobi, which is a major battleground, two major camps have already emerged in Azimio, with Mr Sifuna, former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, Nairobi Woman Rep Esther Passaris and Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi on one side and National Chamber of Commerce president Richard Ngatia, nominated MP Maina Kamanda and nominated Senator Beatrice Kwamboka on the other.
Mr Waweru, Mr Ngatia and Mr Wanyonyi want to be governor, Mr Sifuna and Mr Kamanda are eyeing the senate seat while Ms Kwamboka wants the Woman Rep position.
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui of UPF said his party will field candidates within the Azimio framework, while PNU Secretary-General John Anunda said the nominations process will require the approval of the constituent parties.