President William Ruto on Friday (September 29) rolled out a mega plan for his re-election bid by signalling a party merger to build a political juggernaut and party elections to deal with any fallout prior to 2027 polls.
Dr Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) announced December 9 as the date for its grassroots elections even as the party’s top leadership began to engage Kenya Kwanza Alliance affiliate parties with intention to have them fold and back the President’s bid for a second and final term in office.
The ruling party is already in an aggressive membership registration drive to enlist 15 million members before the next poll.
This will be an increase from the current seven million members, according to party officials.
President Ruto, in a perceived response to criticism that he was engaging in a premature re-election plan, said UDA has opted to carry party elections early enough to deal with a possible fallout in the outfit.
Just a year into office, Dr Ruto’s meeting was the first major congress for his party, in a departure from his predecessors who distanced themselves from the party affairs soon after being elected, only returning when elections are nearing.
“It is better to have them (party elections) now than close to the election so that if it gets messy, we can deal with the consequences,” Dr Ruto said.
Party elections have in the past proved divisive and chaotic, resulting in major fallouts, a scenario that has made many outfits in the country to avoid holding party elections.
The merger talk has remained divisive within Kenya Kwanza.
But the President yesterday indicated that it would be through consensus.
Addressing the UDA National Governing Council — the second highest decision-making organ, only second to the National Delegates Council — at Bomas of Kenya, President Ruto said he would be reaching out to the partner parties, stating that the outfit will find a way of working with those opposed to the merger plan.
“We want your green light to find how they can work with us by joining so that we can have a strong party. It is not a must that they join us as I have heard some people say,” said Dr Ruto.
He went on: “Those willing will join and those who don’t want, we will find a way of working with them going forward. But we cannot be dictators and insist that they must join us like some people have been saying.”
Dr Ruto told UDA delegates that he is a firm believer in building a national party that brings all Kenyans together in shared ideologies.
At least seven parties – among them National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya and Amani National Congress (ANC), formerly of Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi – have in the past rejected the merger plan, citing lack of consultation.
Other parties forming Kenya Kwanza Alliance are EFP, DP, Chama Cha Kazi, Communist Party of Kenya, The Service Party, Tujibebe Wakenya Party, Farmers Party, Devolution Party of Kenya and Umoja na Maendeleo Party.
Also in the ruling alliance are National Agenda Party of Kenya, Grand Dream Development Party, UDM and Chama cha Mashinani.
This latest push gives President Ruto another opportunity to craft a political juggernaut after a similar attempt to build Jubilee Party – which was projected to follow in the footsteps of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – disintegrated and ended up not surviving beyond a single electoral cycle just like other outfits that carried former presidents to power. Jubilee was formed in the run-up to the 2017 polls by dissolving at least 11 political parties.
UDA also plans to open branches in all the 47 counties as part of its mega plan for the next battle.
The President is set to open a branch in Homa Bay next month, in what is seen as taking the battle to his main political rival Raila Odinga.
And in what is seen as an attempt to win the backing of Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) who form the bulk of grassroots leadership, the president promised a pension scheme for the politicians.
He also backed proposals to make county assemblies independent by creating a ward development fund.
The President also instructed party members to be remitting their monthly contributions to the party.
This is even as the party disclosed that it has Sh127 million from member contributions.
The party said it plans to use the money to put up its headquarters.
Currently, the outfit is housed at the UDA Hustlers’ Plaza in private offices along Ngong Road.
Another Sh345 million was also received by the party from the Political Parties Fund.
“Party is built through structures and meetings. Monthly contributions by members is not negotiable. You cannot be a party member but when it comes to making payments you disappear,” warned the President.
Yesterday, the party instructed its elected and nominated members to propagate the party’s development record as part of deflecting criticism at the grassroots.
The President announced that party leaders would start receiving the implementation status of the party’s manifesto to help them with messaging of government achievements.
The ruling alliance has been under heavy criticism due to the current high cost of living occasioned by high fuel prices and new taxes.
“All the elected leaders under the party shall strive to understand the government’s plan and manifesto and shall answer, defend, and represent to the electorate the status of the government’s manifesto,” the Bomas meeting resolved.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua talked of plans to have the party running for more than 100 years.
Our party was not formed for the sole purpose of forming the government. It was founded on the bottom-up ideology and it must live for generations to come. The first step is ensuring it is strengthened and that it will be around in the next century,” said Mr Gachagua.
The President said there would be no favours for those seeking party positions, stating that party members will have the final say on who becomes their officials at the grassroots all the way to the national level.
This, even as the Bomas meeting resolved that the grassroots elections would be conducted digitally.
The two leaders used the platform to highlight some of the achievements of the Kenya Kwanza administration, highlighting the fertiliser subsidy among other programmes.
Mr Gachagua said the economy was beginning to stabilise since Dr Ruto took the reins of power. He said counties and the National Government Constituency Development Fund were now getting their allocation on time.
“You inherited a country with many economic challenges. Through prudent management and well thought-out economic intervention, we have started to see signs of economic recovery,” said Mr Gachagua.
He also repeated his shareholders’ narrative, insisting that the President could only work with those who believed in his manifesto during the campaigns.
“Every Kenyan is entitled to development, but in the leadership of Ruto there is shareholding. The real shareholders are these. We ask him to do development for all parts of the country. In your leadership, these are the true shareholders and they must occupy the place because they believed in you,” he said.