Smaller parties pose threat to leading presidential candidates

TSP offices in Nairobi

The offices of Mwangi Kiunjuri's The Service Party (TSP) in Nairobi. The emergence of smaller political parties is causing headache to leading presidential hopefuls as the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

The emergence of smaller political parties is causing headache to leading presidential hopefuls as the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in next year’s poll intensifies.

At least 15 political parties linked to former allies of President Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper and ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi have sprung up in the past months, placing themselves at the centre of the 2022 succession battle and posing a challenge to the bigwigs seeking the support of voters.

In Mt Kenya, parties associated with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, former CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, Narc leader Martha Karua and former Kiambu governor William Kabogo, have all vowed to galvanise voters and reposition themselves for a piece of the pie in the presidential contest.

The same is in places like Nyanza and at the Coast, where Mr Odinga – who has enjoyed near-fanatical support – faces a possible rebellion, after some of his former allies like Migori governor Okoth Obado broke rank with the Orange party.

Influential in Migori

Mr Obado, who has had an on-and-off relationship with the ODM leader, and who is considered an influential figure in his Migori backyard, has since declared interest in the presidency on a People’s Democratic Party, the same outfit associated with former South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara, a close ally of Dr Ruto. The Orange party is also facing a litmus test from the likes of Ugenya MP David Ochieng and former Ndhiwa Augustino Neto, who out of what they termed as frustrations from ODM, have since formed their own political vehicles ahead of the elections.

Mr Neto is the founder and the party leader of the United Green Movement (UGM) while Mr Ochieng belongs to the Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) – a party he founded and on whose ticket he won the 2019 by-election against ODM candidate Christoper Karan. UGM has already rolled out a recruitment drive targeting members from across the country, setting the stage for a bitter face-off with ODM.

And while declaring his bid for the presidency, Mr Obado said that his exit from ODM was to give him time to focus his energy on building and popularising PDP party, pointing to what could become another challenge for Mr Odinga.

Coast

Mr Kingi has also began popularising and marketing his newly found Pamoja African Alliance outfit, posing a challenge to the Orange party which has enjoyed a huge support at the Coast for over a decade.

Mr Magara has also hinted at the possibility of a merger between PDP and the DP Ruto-led UDA party, a move he said was to shore up Dr Ruto’s support in the region while eating up some of the votes belonging to Mr Odinga.

“PDP and UDA share everything including the bottom-up economic model, this is 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,” Mr Magara said.

Internal rebellion

But Dr Ruto is not without a fair share of his own problems. The DP, who has been on a charm offensive in Mt Kenya region, has also been facing internal rebellion within his camp.

The DP has also had to contend with the re-emergence of the Chama Cha Mashinani party, led by former Bomet governor Isaac Ruto, who now says that his party was also keen on fielding candidates in next year’s elections alongside UDA.

“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.

And in the battle to win Mt Kenya, Dr Ruto last month suffered a major setback after both Mr Kuria and Mr Kiunjuri, who had until recently enjoyed a close working relationship with him, declined to fold their political vehicles in favour of UDA

The two accused UDA of bulldozing them into abandoning their vehicles in favour of Dr Ruto’s presidential ambitions and have since vowed to use their parties to rally Mt Kenya voters and bargain on behalf of voters, signalling what could be the biggest test yet for political players seeking an alliance there.

Not short-changed

Mr Kuria of Chama Cha Kazi, said that his intentions, were to mobilise votes in the region, fight for the welfare of the residents and ensure that the Mt Kenya is not short-changed in negotiations for the formation of the next government.

“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 who has said that he will not be vying for any seat in next year’s election said.

In the battle for the Mt Kenya vote, Mr Kabogo – the latest entrant in the race, and who lost the Kiambu governorship contest to Jubilee party in the 2017 elections, has also declared an interest in the presidency next year, after his Tujibebe Wakenya Party received an interim certificate from the Registrar of Political Parties.

And while it is not clear whether Mr Munya of the Party of National Unity (PNU) will vie for any political seat next year, his party said that it had begun talks with ODM for a possible merger.

PNU secretary-general John Anunda told the Nation that talks on a possible alliance with ODM was based on the mutual working relationship the two parties enjoyed during the tenure of grand-coalition government.

Ukambani

In Ukambani, Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka is also facing problems of his own, with his ambitions to ascend to the presidency facing opposition from Machakos governor Alfred Mutua and his Kitui counterpart Charity Ngilu, both who have vowed to rein in on Mr Musyoka’s influence in the region.

Mr Mutua – founder of the Maendeleo Chap Chap party – has also declared an interest in the presidency, challenging the candidature of Mr Musyoka, whom he accused of failing to deliver the seat to the people of the region, despite their constant support for his presidential bid.

“We need to build political institutions based on ideology and choose leaders bearing in mind what they stand for corresponds with the desire of wananchi. In Maendeleo Chap Chap we believe in programmes that improve the lives of our people and making life better for them with visible results within the shortest space of time. I am optimistic that this will be a silver bullet to change the fortunes of our regions.”

Kingmaker role

Prof Egara Kabaji of Masinde Muliro University said the small parties, keen on being part of forming the next government, have resorted to playing the kingmaker role, but which may have little to no impact on the final results.

“Those are vehicles for individuals who are determined to be on the ballot so that they avoid being thrown out at the preliminary level of nominations.

“However, in actual fact, they will not determine the direction of the presidential vote,” Prof Kabaji said.

Prof Macharia Munene of the United States International University said the emergence of the parties was out of necessity, a move he argued could pose a challenge to the bigwigs who for a long time have enjoyed a monopoly on the country’s politics.

“The many and growing small parties are challenges to supposed bigwigs who imagine they are or should be the ones to decide for everyone else. Those parties reflect the amount of uncertainty, frustration, and political distrust across the Mountain,” said Prof Munene.

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