Small political parties whose leaders have no intention of running for the presidency are positioning themselves to play an integral role in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession.
With political pundits arguing that no party can go it alone in next year’s elections, leaders of the small parties are leaving nothing to chance to earn them a space at the negotiation table.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria of Chama Cha Kazi (CCK), former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri of The Service Party (TSP), Mr Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM), Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, Governor Charity Ngilu of the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) and former South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have all declared that they will not make a stab at the country’s top job. While Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua of Maendeleo Chap Chap has declared interest in the seat, he is seen as part of the team led by Raila Odinga.
It is not yet clear if Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, the immediate former leader of the Party of National Unity (PNU), will vie for any seat next year.
These leaders, the kings and queens of small parties, are using their outfits to push for a space, with the knowledge that presidential contenders will want to court them for the sake of forming a formidable team to clinch the constitutional threshold of 50 percent plus one of the votes to be declared winner.
PNU has already initiated coalition talks with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of Raila Odinga.
The party’s secretary general, Mr John Anunda, said the two parties had worked together before the 2008-2013 Grand Coalition Government, which he termed the most “prolific administration in Kenya's history.”
“It is because of the ODM-PNU working arrangement that people enjoy the Thika Super Highway and other infrastructural developments in the country, as well as the free primary education and the vision 2030 programmes,” he said in an interview with the Nation.
Meru Senator Mithika Linturi has accused the leaders of some of these small parties that have dominated President Kenyatta’s political bastion of Mt Kenya of coming up with political parties aimed at taking advantage of the locals.
“People from this region have taken full advantage of innocent Kenyans by coming up with political parties which they market. The end result is for the individuals to blackmail the biggest political parties or strong candidates when a General Election draws closer for their selfish gains, hence I am against the idea of discussing an alliance with them,” said Mr Linturi, an ally of Deputy President William Ruto.
He went ahead: “Kiunjuri had the Grand National Union of Kenya (GNU), he auctioned it to Uhuru and he got a ministerial position. Munya had the Party of Nation Unity (PNU), it got auctioned and got a position in government.”
Mt Kenya is at a crossroads with President Kenyatta leaving office after serving two terms and, without a clear regional kingpin to inherit the mantle, it has become a battleground where Dr Ruto, who has fallen out with his boss, has made significant inroads in a region that ODM leader Raila Odinga is eyeing.
Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, who ran for president on a Kenya National Congress ticket in 2013 and is now associated with the Democratic Congress (DC), is backing the Handshake – the political truce between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga -- with a view of being at the negotiation table.
Mr Kuria, on the other hand, has been pushing for Dr Ruto to agree to a coalition with his other and other parties, saying he will even fail to run for any seat to focus on the Mt Kenya unity bid.
“I will not vie for any seat next year. People take political parties for granted. Rallying a political party is a full-time job by itself. Government is formed by political parties, not by saccos and not by welfare societies,” the Gatundu South MP said in an interview.
He added: “I am focused on building Chama Cha Kazi for the interest of Mt Kenya. Leaders forming coalitions and alliances ahead of the 2022 elections have ignored the mountain, yet they want votes from this region.”
Mr Kuria and Mr Kiunjuri joined the Narc Kenya leader in forming a caucus, whose aim, they said, is to champion the region’s unity.
“We are looking for unity of purpose in Mount Kenya and looking for our place in Kenya in the political dispensation as we move forward,” Ms Karua said in an interview with KTN News recently.
Ms Karua added: “It is too early to campaign for any presidential candidate but I am campaigning for myself to be the governor of Kirinyaga and I am campaigning for the unity of purpose of Mount Kenya. When the right time comes, we will listen to the ground, to what people of Kirinyaga, to what people of Mount Kenya are saying and we will not disagree.”
Mr Kiunjuri says that he came up with TSP, which he intends to use as a bargaining chip in the 2022 succession matrix.
“I’m not very stupid to have TSP. This will enable the region to have a bargaining power when it comes to demanding a fair share,” he said last week.
He also plans to use the party in angling for the running mate position.
Mr Ruto, the former Bomet governor, has also declared interest in the gubernatorial race, while his party supports DP’s presidential quest.
“If the masses have decided that they will back you for the presidency, then we in Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) have absolutely no problem with that as we will battle for the governorship and legislative positions,” said Mr Ruto.
The former governor has repeatedly stated that he will not fold CCM, but will work with like-minded leaders and parties to root for devolution and increased resource allocation to counties.
Mr Magara disclosed that his party is engaged in talks with UDA to ensure the agenda of affiliate parties does not interfere with their 2022 presidential goal.
“PDP and UDA share everything, including the bottom-up economic model. This is a work in progress because we have a clear purpose and focus that Ruto becomes president and whatever it takes to make that happen, we are willing to sacrifice. This country requires a rebirth,” he said.
The control of nomination millions has also emerged as the main reason some of the small parties are not willing to fold their parties.
Jubilee collected Sh622 million from nomination fees, while ODM received Sh195 million, ahead of the 2017 General Election.
The small parties are interested in having senators, MPs and MCAs, merging with the likes of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) linked with Dr Ruto is likely to deny them the opportunity of bagging those seats.
“They are aiming for people who might want to join ‘Hustler Nation’ but indirectly. For example, civil servants. They are also targeting persons who dislike nominations but may want to associate with Ruto. It is expected UDA nominations will be stiff in central as it’s a magic ticket,” said Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata.
Mr Kang’ata says the leaders of TSP, CCK and CCM are looking for freedom, which is likely to put them on the same level with Dr Ruto, who remains the party leader of UDA.
“They prefer freedom and space which a party affords them,” he said.
Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono, another Ruto ally, accused the leaders from Mount Kenya who have refused to fold their parties of pursuing “selfish interests”.
“They want to use the parties to negotiate for running mate and ministerial positions. We are currently talking to convince them to see the sense of having one political party,” he told the Nation.