Deputy President William Ruto’s allies are banking on their push for Jubilee grassroots elections in their efforts to regain control of the ruling party.
Dr Ruto’s camp is keen to seize control of the 82-member National Executive Council (NEC), which has a huge say in party primaries, the selection of the presidential candidate and formation of coalitions.
Only about 42 NEC members are in office, largely national officials, as well as parliamentary leaders and the President’s recent purge, left the powerful organ heavily tilted against the DP.
By forcing elections, Dr Ruto’s camp hopes to wrestle from the other faction some of the positions not held by virtual of an elected seat and also secure the extra 40 vacant seats.
These positions have never been filled because the party formed in the run-up to the 2017 elections has never held grassroots elections.
Should this campaign succeed, he could regain domination of the top organ he lost following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s purge of the Tangatanga wing of the ruling coalition, which is allied to him.
Whoever seizes control of the additional 40 slots, most of which will be filled by officials elected in the grassroots polls or seconded by the National Delegates Council – the party’s top-most decision making organ – will be one step ahead in the battle for Kenya’s largest party.
Powerful organ The removal of Mr Aden Duale and Mr Kipchumba Murkomen from their National Assembly and Senate Majority Leader positions, respectively, as well as that of Senate Majority Whip Susan Kihika and her National Assembly counterpart Benjamin Washiali—who were all members of the NEC—has seen the numbers for the Ruto camp wane in the powerful organ.
The appointment of Eldas MP Adan Keynan as the Secretary to the Parliamentary Group further shored up President Kenyatta’s clout in the NEC. “We are waiting for them to give us a date for the grassroots elections. We are ready. We have been ready for what is now a long-overdue process,” Jubilee Party deputy secretary-general Caleb Kositany told the Nation.
The Tangatanga wing wants the polls that were to be held in March but were postponed following an extension request the party made to the Registrar of Parties, held “as soon as possible”.
The term of the interim officials ended in March and the battle for the control of the next team is key to the 2022 polls.
The NEC is also tasked with approving pre-election and post-election agreements. President Kenyatta’s wing is pushing for Jubilee to form a coalition with Kanu, CCM, Wiper and ODM, which would mean fielding a joint presidential candidate.
If their plan succeeds, it would force presidential contenders, including Dr Ruto, to submit to an alliance nomination process. Already, President Kenyatta’s ally and Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe is leading calls to deny the DP the party’s ticket.
Mr Murathe has indicated he prefers ODM leader Raila Odinga to take over from President Kenyatta. The DP has accused Mr Murathe, whom he says is part of a group of conmen and brokers, of “running the party in a way that is unbelievable . . . They are running it by fiat.” “The biggest regret I will ever have as a politician is losing the Jubilee Party.
The kind of emotional, political and financial investment we have put in building Jubilee is immense. A strong national party is the only insurance against politics of tribalism and conmanship,” Dr Ruto once told a TV interview, putting all cards on the table on how much Jubilee means to him.
Smaller parties The ruling party has not held grassroots polls ever since it was formed in September 2016 following the decision by President Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) and Dr Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) to fold and merge with nine other smaller parties.
The merger resulted in a monolith that boasts at least one elected representative in 41 of Kenya’s 47 counties. Jubilee won 171 seats in the National Assembly—140 in the 290 constituencies, 25 of the country’s 47 county woman representative seats and six of the 12 nominated MPs—coming just 62 shy of an absolute two-thirds majority in the House.
The party also won 25 governor seats and 34 of the 67 senator seats – 25 of them elected – cementing its foothold as Kenya’s largest political party. In its blueprint, Jubilee wants to glean lessons from South Africa, China, India and Tanzania, countries Secretary-General Raphael Tuju said had succeeded in creating “truly national political parties so powerful they have the power to even recall the President”.
However, vicious fights for the control of the party’s soul pitting President Kenyatta against Mr Ruto now threaten to tear it apart. Mr Tuju believes that the problems bedevilling the Pangani-based outfit are representative of Kenya’s own challenges in its journey to create truly national political parties.
“Parties in Kenya, Jubilee included, are facing transitional challenges, which need to be addressed legislatively and with constitutional provisions to strengthen and give them the teeth to enforce discipline and create structures,” Mr Tuju said.
But Belgut MP Nelson Koech, an ally of the DP, said Jubilee had become a private entity. “Jubilee is in a shambles, existing on paper but practically on autopilot mode. It died when greed for power and selfishness replaced the principles that the party was founded on.
The party constitution is suspended and in its place we have one-man directives dubbed party positions on everything,” Mr Koech said. He added: “The impunity reigning in Jubilee Party has a short lifespan. We shall defeat it.”
Before the March 2018 Handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, Dr Ruto was Jubilee’s heir-apparent, almost at a co-president status and ready to slide into the shoes of his boss for what would be Jubilee’s 20-year reign.