Raila, Ruto parties risk being locked out of August polls

Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) and Deputy President William Ruto during the installation of Bishop Anyolo as Archbishop of Kisumu at Uzima University Grounds in Kisumu on January 12, 2019.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Kenya’s biggest political parties, UDA and ODM, are among the 43 that failed to meet the requirement.
  • In race against time, political outfits are now scouting for women to be able to comply.

Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Azimio presidential aspirant Raila Odinga’s ODM are among the dozens of political parties that failed the gender test in the nomination of contestants for electoral positions, putting them at risk of being locked out of the August 9 General Election.

The two parties with the highest following across the country are among 43 whose list of nominees for the National Assembly did not meet the two-third gender principle enshrined in the Constitution. The principle provides that not more than two-thirds of party nominees be of the same gender. 

Another 33 political parties failed to comply with the requirement for the nomination of members of the Senate, as per the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) records.

Making the announcement on Thursday regarding non-compliant political parties, the IEBC avoided disclosing their identities. Instead, the Commission said it had directly communicated to the affected parties, with instructions to review and amend their nominees’ lists. 

Sources at the Commission and conversations with party officials have revealed a partial list of the affected parties, which include the biggest parties by registered members, namely ODM and UDA. 

The other non-compliant parties include Jubilee Party, whose leader is President Uhuru Kenyatta; Amani National Congress (ANC) of Musalia Mudavadi; The Service Party of Mwangi Kiunjuri; Movement for Growth and Democracy (MDG) party led by Ugenya MP David Ochieng; Narc, whose leader is Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu; and Narc Kenya led by former Cabinet minister Martha Karua.

The commission notified all the affected parties last week. IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati on Thursday also gave the affected parties until tomorrow, 11.59 pm, to refile the lists after complying. It means that the parties are now left with just about 24 hours to revise their nomination lists and resubmit to the IEBC by midnight tomorrow.

“Non-compliant political parties will not participate in the 2022 General Election for the said elective positions,” Mr Chebukati said.

He disclosed that out of 81 parties seeking to participate in the polls, 48 have met the gender requirement in respect of Senate races, while only 38 have achieved the rule in respective of the 290 National Assembly seats. All the affected parties had more male nominees. Less than a third of their nominees were women. 

Ahead of tomorrow’s deadline, several political parties have resorted to picking women randomly to meet the gender requirement to be able to participate in the August 9 polls.

Top party officials admitted that some have been forced into “fishing” for women who have no intention to run for elective seats in their non-stronghold regions just to meet the requirement.

The order by the commission implies that hundreds of parliamentary aspirants cleared by the affected political outfits could be locked out of the polls if their parties will not have complied by tomorrow midnight.

Jubilee secretary general Jeremiah Kioni and ODM chairman John Mbadi said some parties have been forced to pick names from their membership lists to meet the requirement.

Another official, who sought anonymity, said most parties are picking names from their member registers randomly and only informing those nominated that their details are being forward as aspirants for parliamentary seats.

“What most parties have done is to go to their membership lists in areas they don’t have candidates to contest and get women to be included in the list. Even the IEBC is just interested in meeting the requirement as ordered by the court,” said the official. 

Mr Kioni said there are not enough women volunteering to run for electoral seats, forcing parties to literally scout for candidates.

“If every party was to put on the table the number of women who requested to be nominated under their ticket, you will be surprised because most of the slots would have gone empty,” said Mr Kioni. 

“You have to go out literally to fish for women candidates. We have to go out all over to ask them to run. Parties are really struggling to achieve the requirement. The reality of it is that we are still far from the two-third gender actualisation.”

He said the country is trying to implement a borrowed concept that is not attainable in Kenya, where women have not fully embraced politics because of historical and cultural factors.

“The free will of the women is not there and I highly doubt if we will realise it in the next parliament. This is something we borrowed but was not meant for us. I have been a major advocate [of the principle] and I am really disappointed,” said Mr Kioni.

Mr Mbadi said parties have been forced to meet a requirement that is not realistic, thus forcing them to resort to other means of obeying the law.

He said parties field candidates to win elections and not to meet gender requirements. He disclosed how ODM’s decision to issue direct tickets to its sitting women MPs triggered protests by voters, who demanded a free hand to choose their representatives.

“Parties are in the business of winning elections, not meeting the gender rule requirement. That is why if you don’t get those numbers to meet the requirement, you move to regions where you have a weak presence to get members (women) to put their names to meet the requirement,” he added.

He said the only sure way the requirement could have been achieved was through the aborted constitutional amendment through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

“It may not be achieved unless you put some electoral areas specific for the women. We are basically trying to implement what cannot be achieved,” he added.

The IEBC, in insisting that the parties meet the two-thirds gender requirement, says they are only enforcing a court order arising from a 2017 constitutional petition by Katiba Institute. 

The IEBC had opposed the petition, arguing that the requirement can only be enforced after the elections and not during nominations. But they lost the suit.

United Democratic Movement (UDM) secretary general David Ohito said parties have decided to provide “a compliant list” without much attention to the winning chances of the added nominees.

“You cannot force women to contest. The ruling of the court says the list has to be compliant. It does not say they have to be serious contestants,” said Mr Ohito.

But Kanu secretary general Nick Salat asked parties to be deliberate in ensuring the requirement—which he termed achievable — is realised.

“It can be made impossible by the unwilling mind. You just have to be willing to actualise it. Women should stand up for what is actually theirs,” said Mr Salat.


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