Deputy President William Ruto has finally bowed to pressure from small political parties affiliated to his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) not to fold for his 2022 State House bid.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria of Chama Cha Kazi (CCK), former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri of The Service Party(TSP) and Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) have all declared they will not merge with UDA even after Dr Ruto referred to them as “tribal” parties.
The DP, speaking yesterday when he met UDA aspirants drawn from Kajiado, Narok and Nakuru counties at his official Karen residence, said he had no issues with the parties.
“We have not told anyone to fold tribal or regional political parties. What we have decided is to deliberately form UDA as a national party,” Dr Ruto said in a statement by the party.
But the DP, who is keen on succeeding his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta next year, maintained his push to make and market UDA as a national party was unstoppable.
This announcement, coming just days after he was quoted in a Migori tour saying he had no problem with the parties, is a departure from his previous hardline stand.
The stance had led to the protest of Mr Kuria, who argued that the DP seemed easy to embrace parties from other regions, and not those from Mt Kenya.
Keen to avert a fallout at nominations, the make-or-break precursor to a General Election, and which analysts say was the reason for the coming up of the small parties in the first place, the DP yesterday promised credible UDA primaries.
“Until it is fair, it is not done. But that does not mean everybody will win. Those who are winning, must win fairly, and those who are losing, must lose fairly,” the DP told the aspirants.
“I know we had experiences of unfairness in the past, and we are correcting that. You will not need to know the party’s secretary general, or any other official. Just work the ground, talk to the voters, register your people; everybody will be treated fairly,” DP Ruto said.
There have been jitters in the UDA camp after the DP appeared to have endorsed Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang'ata and his Nakuru colleague Susan Kihika for governor posts, as well as Mr Edward Muriu for the Gatanga parliamentary seat.
The DP later clarified that his was not endorsement, and he later insisted that the process will be fair and free from rigging.
“The matter of free and fair nominations is not a favour from the party. It is a right for every member of this party. It is the irreducible minimum that any member can ask of this party,” the DP said.
Based on the complaints of the 2017 Jubilee primaries, the UDA nominations are the ultimate test for the nascent party and, by extension, the DP’s own State House quest.
“This is an undertaking I give to every aspirant: Those who win will win fairly; those who lose will lose fairly,” the DP said.
At least 15 political parties linked to former allies of President Kenyatta, Dr 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.
Mr Kuria and Mr Kiunjuri, have also vowed to unite Mt Kenya and bargain on behalf of voters, signaling what could be the biggest test yet for political players seeking an alliance with the region.
“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 recently.
“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.”
His key allies in the region, President Kenyatta’s restive backyard that every presidential candidate is courting for next year, have also asked Mr Kuria and Mr Kiunjuri to fold their outfits and join UDA, saying it has a national outlook.
That if they have political aspirations, they must have the space, the democratic right and the fairness to compete in a manner that everybody is equal
According to the Gatundu South MP, he will not fold up his party so that he would use it to push for the implementation of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) he will have signed with any of the 2022 presidential hopefuls.
“One way of ensuring that people remain committed to political MoU is by not folding up my party,” he said in an interview.
Mr Kiunjuri said the reasons behind the formation of The Service Party was to increase Mt Kenya’s bargaining power as well as to position the region at the centre of Mr Kenyatta’s succession politics.
“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,” Mr Kiunjuri said.
Prof XN Iraki of the University of Nairobi argues that the decision by the small political parties to join the fray was a strategic one, whose result may be beneficial to their founders in the long run.
“The small parties will bargain with big ones for post-election big posts if they win seats. They are also a fallback position in case someone fails to get a nomination through big parties either through rigging or unpopularity… they will mint money through nominations or being bought outright,” Prof Iraki said.
Though CCM remained unequivocal in support of DP Ruto 2022 presidential bid, the party maintained it would not dissolve to join UDA and will not field a presidential candidate.
Acting CCM Secretary General Albert Kochei yesterday told the Nation the party had resolved to field candidates across the country in all elective posts except for the presidency.
Additional reporting by Fred Kibor