DP William Ruto

DP William Ruto who is eyeing the presidency in 2022.

| File | Nation Media Group

Ruto’s UDA plan for a 2015 Jubilee-style Parliament debut derailed in mini polls

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) associated with Deputy President William Ruto failed to bag its first parliamentary seat following two by-elections, failing to emulate the feat of his former party some years ago.

In May 2015, the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP), which President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy Ruto formed as their new vehicle for re-election in the 2017 General Election, had made its debut in Parliament, following the Kabete parliamentary by-election.

Ferdinand Baba Yao Waititu became the first MP of the newly founded JAP after winning by a landslide the Kabete seat left vacant with the death of George Muchai.

Baba Yao polled 24,228 votes, with the closest opponent coming in a distant second with only 268 votes -- a margin JAP capitalised on to trumpet the popularity of the new party, just over two years to the elections.

Uhuru and Ruto, after winning the presidency in 2013 through a coalition between their parties The National Alliance and the United Republican Party, respectively, had set out to transform them into one party – the JAP.

JAP would field Baba Yao in the 2015 parliamentary by-election and the following year, in September, some 11 political parties, including TNA and URP dissolved to merge with the party, which was renamed the Jubilee Party.

Uhuru and Ruto went on to win re-election in October 2017, albeit following a fresh election since their victory in the August presidential vote had been nullified by the Supreme Court.

But unlike the camaraderie the duo enjoyed in their first term, the second term has been plagued with a power struggle, which has seen the deputy president increasingly isolated, both in government and in party affairs.

His allies have been ousted from key party and parliamentary leadership positions as the wing allied to the President consolidates its grip on government helped by his rival-turned-ally ODM leader Raila Odinga.

It’s as a result of this falling out, fuelled by the competition to succeed President Kenyatta -- the faction allied to the President is opposed to Ruto’s presidential bid -- that the Deputy President’s camp has opted for UDA.

The wheelbarrow party -- named so because of its symbol -- is widely believed to be Ruto’s vehicle to contest the presidency in next year’s elections. Given the stranglehold his rivals have on Jubilee, the ruling party might not be available for Ruto.

It’s against this background that UDA competed for the Kabuchai and Matungu parliamentary by-elections, hoping to make a debut in Parliament, and repeat the feat by Jubilee in 2015.

However, it would appear despite Ruto’s aggressive campaigns in western Kenya, regional and ethnic politics triumphed, as UDA’s candidates were no match for those fronted by parties led by regional chiefs, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula.

In Matungu, Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC) recaptured the seat through Peter Nabulindo, who polled 14,257 to succeed the late Justus Murunga.

It was sweet victory for Nabulindo, who was runner up in 2017 when, as a Ford Kenya candidate, he polled 10,636. At the time, ANC’s Murunga won with 18,088 while Jubilee’s David Were emerged third with 8,618.

During Wednesday’s poll, Were ran on an ODM ticket, coming second with 10,555 while UDA’s Alex Lanya polled 5,513 to emerge third.

In Kabuchai, Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya also defended the seat as Majimbo Kalasinga emerged the winner with 19,274 votes.

UDA’s Evans Kakai came second with 6,455 votes.

In the 2017 elections, Ford Kenya’s James Lusweti had won with 18,485 followed by Edward Tale who had garnered 18,062 as an independent candidate. At the time, Majimbo, who had vied on a Jubilee ticket, was a distant fourth with 2,686 votes.

A triumph in either of the parliamentary seats would have earned the new party bragging rights, as well as help the narrative that the DP was making in-roads in western Kenya.

The victory would also have been symbolic, as exactly eight years ago this time, counting of presidential votes was under way, showing UhuRuto were on course to defy all odds to win the presidency.

However, during Wednesday’s mini polls, UDA only won the London ward seat in Nakuru where Anthony Nzuki shrugged off competition from Jubilee’s Francis Njoroge to win by 1,707 votes to the latter’s 1,385.

The party will turn to the upcoming Juja and Bonchari parliamentary by-elections if it hopes to have a member(s) in the National Assembly.

Two Senate by-elections in Machakos and Garissa are also the party’s next targets.