Kenya: a year before the polls, it has already been seen for Kenyatta, fingers crossed for Odinga, a link for Ruto

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President Uhuru Kenyatta begins his final year in office tomorrow (Monday), ushering in a frantic 12 months of scrambling as those seeking to succeed him strike a crescendo.

Away from political politics, a series of legal activities, which are constitutionally guaranteed, are expected to start, including the laying of the final milestones for the general elections, the entry into force of a new election financing framework and the resignation of any government agent who has political ambitions.

It is therefore the beginning of a busy year, with political positions, alignments and realignments, and punctuated from time to time by a fiery effort on the part of the holder to only assert his power and authority, but also pass on its heritage. projects in a politically tainted environment.

On the governance scene, the next few weeks will see four new commissioners take office at the then agency, the Independent Electoral and Borders Commission (IEBC), after President Uhuru Kenyatta forwarded their names to the National Assembly. for verification and approval. Ms Juliana Cherera, Mr Francis Wanderi, Ms Irene Cherop and Mr Justus Nyang’aya will fill the positions left vacant following the resignations of Dr Roselyn Akombe, Ms Connie Maina, Ms Margaret Mwachanya and Dr Paul Kibiwott Kurgat.

Once appointed, they will have to be inducted so that they can merge with the three commissioners already in office, namely President Wafula Chebukati, Boya Molu and Professor Abdi Guliye. All three have been around since 2017.

CEO of IEBC

In addition, it seems that there will not be time to appoint a substantial CEO before the elections and Marjan Hussein Marjan will continue to act in this capacity, or will be finally confirmed. Mr. Marjan has been acting since April 2018 and attempts to appoint an incumbent manager have often resulted in legal proceedings.

Since the last failed effort on court intervention, the commission has not attempted to recruit again for the post.

Even more important for the IEBC is the fact that it faces a number of ongoing legal reforms and budget deficits.

On the pending electoral reforms, the question of financing electoral campaigns arises. The Election Campaign Finance (Amendment) Bill has been pending in parliament for over a year. Parallel to the amendment bill is the Campaign Finance Regulations 2020, through which the commission seeks to put into practice the Campaign Finance Act 2013.

The law was supposed to come into force for the first time in the 2017 elections, but was suspended until 2022. Yet, with the regulations still pending and the amending bill unchanged, IEBC’s preparations could be hampered. .

“They did not submit it in time,” explains Mulle Musau, the national coordinator of the Election Observation Group (ELOG).

“No one can say it’s IEBC’s fault. But it will definitely affect IEBC’s business.”

Although they do not have a direct impact on the elections, there is also the Independent Elections and Limits (Amendment) Bill and the Referendum Bill, both still pending in Parliament.

Budget allocation

Besides legal reforms, there is the concern of budgetary allocation to the committee.

The IEBC, for example, requested 40 billion shillings in the current fiscal year, but ended up obtaining 26 billion shillings. Some of the money was directed to the Home Office to help it with its own preparations for the elections.

In its electoral operations plan (EOP), there are activities that the commission is expected to carry out until election day in August 2022. All topics depend on the availability of an adequate budget. Among them is the deployment of a massive voter registration campaign, possibly next month.

For President Kenyatta, this is déjà vu.

At such a time in 2017, forming the Jubilee Party was high on his agenda and the bromance he enjoyed with his deputy, William Ruto, was at his best. It has since changed. The bromance is gone; the good-natured thing now resigned to a distant story. The cold war between the two is no longer a secret and Dr. Ruto has started to look his boss straight in the eye.

Scary times

For ODM chief Raila Odinga, these times could be frightening.

Scary, but also promising. Around the same time in 2016, his goal was to ensure that President Kenyatta did not wipe out the opposition, which he was leading. Now he’s immersed in Kenyatta’s camp, taking advantage of the power traps, but also fully aware that while one of his feet is inside State House, the other is not. How he manages to get his two feet into it depends on how he lines up his cards in the coming months and, most importantly, how he navigates the murky swamp of his associations with the holder through the grip of hand.

And, for Jubilee’s secretary general, Raphael Tuju, remaining at the head of a tattered and dilapidated political group and maintaining his composure will be his final test. For now, however, his loyalty is channeled to party leader Uhuru Kenyatta, who he says will continue to preach the gospel of unity until his last day in office.

“There is still a lot of work to be done by the Jubilee government and the president is very focused on this,” Tuju said, deftly shifting our focus from the politics of the day to the president’s unity agenda.

“Elections come and go but the country’s future is much more important.”

With Vice President William Ruto leading the pack among those who have shown interest in the coveted seat, Mr Odinga is expected to officially join the fray later this month. One or more other candidates could come from One Kenya Alliance (OKA) mainly comprising the leader of the Wiper Democratic Movement Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi of the Amani National Congress. Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi have promised their supporters that they will be on the ballot in 2022, while vowing to no longer support Mr Odinga after the dramatic collapse of their National Supper Alliance coalition earlier in the week.

Ruto and Uhuru fall out

Dr Ruto is counting on the backyard of the president of central Kenya for support to become the country’s next chief executive, but his falling out with Mr Kenyatta means he could work overtime to gain meaningful support. Without strong support from the region, he would be forced to work even harder to move the rest of the country, except the Rift Valley, away from the grip of Kenyatta, Odinga, Kalonzo and Mudavadi. Its strategists say it can win up to 80% of the vote there, but, as the elections have shown in recent days, there is a big difference between ambition and reality.

From Monday, the focus will also be on how the country finances its campaigns, particularly the thorny issue of building alliances which often sees the aspirant with deeper pockets winning out over the rest.

Both Mr Odinga and the DP activated their networks in the country and beyond as part of the preparations for the election campaign. Because they bring financial muscle, they are expected to get the automatic tickets to run for president.

The season will also see officials step down to embark on the election campaign. Some members of President Kenyatta’s cabinet will not be spared the scuffle as ministers keen to run for elected office signal their intention to step down early next year.

Self-preservation

The ongoing alignments and realignments mean that those who have identified with a political group still have time and space to change their minds, especially to preserve themselves. Laikipia representative Cate Waruguru has so far held the trophy in this category. Initially on Dr Ruto’s side, she defected to Kieleweke from Mr Kenyatta before returning to Dr Ruto. Ms. Waruguru wants to run for the parliamentary seat of Laikipia East and the local political dynamic is such that she cannot afford to oppose the DP, which enjoys considerable support there. His is therefore a political dance of self-preservation.

Major parties are also preparing for party primaries, with some members calling on the IEBC to oversee the exercise to avoid the disastrous quarrels that characterize such exercises.

In their board negotiations for new alliances, leading presidential candidates are inspired by how they can achieve the constitutional requirement of 50 percent plus one vote in the first round of voting, meaning that potential partners must have enough voting blocks firmly behind them. . While he says he is looking for other partners, Odinga’s managers say finding his colleagues at NASA is not impossible.

And politics being the art of the possible, some suggest the channel with DP Ruto, who backed the former prime minister in the 2007 presidential election, remains open. However, this would only happen as a Plan B or C, and especially when Mountain decides to band together around someone else for the top position other than the duo.

Covid-19

And then there is the issue of the coronavirus. Covid-19 is testing the conventional way of engaging potential voters, and the 2022 polls are likely to be conducted under very different circumstances.

The government banned large public gatherings, including political rallies, which restricted opportunities for politicians to interact with voters, although many ignored the directive. As such, politicians invest heavily in online campaign tools.

Live streaming of party events has become the fashion thing, with aspirants at different levels keeping armies online to spread their agenda, a phenomenon that will make these elections different from previous ones.

While tribal equations will undoubtedly remain a determining factor in polls, the debate over the high cost of living, which is widely advanced by Dr Ruto and Mr Mudavadi, will take center stage, given alarming levels of poverty. exacerbated by the pandemic.

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