Why Jubilee came out empty handed from three by-elections
Oliver Musembi and Mathew Ndung’u
Local succession politics, disjointed campaigns, botched primaries and high-handedness by security agencies are some of the reasons the ruling Jubilee Party lost all the three by-elections held on Tuesday.
The two parliamentary elections in Bonchari, Kisii County and Juja in Kiambu, as well as the local showdown in Rurii ward in Nyandarua County, were hotly contested by the three major political parties and saw bigwigs from the various formations hit the campaign trail.
While the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) won Bonchari, the party’s first and only parliamentary seat in the larger Gusii region, Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) appeared to use the mini polls as spring board towards the 2022 General Election.
In Bonchari, ODM’s Pavel Oimeke clinched the seat with 8,049 votes against Jubilee’s Zepedeo Opore who had 7,279 votes. The UDA candidate, Teresa Bitutu Oroo, managed 6,954 votes.
In Juja, George Koimburi emerged victorious after garnering 12,159 votes, defeating Jubilee’s Susan Waititu who managed 5,746 votes. Koimburi vied on Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria’s People’s Empowerment Party (PEP).
And in Rurii ward, Francis Muraya of UDA won the hotly contested by-election getting 4,303 votes against Jubilee’s Peter Thinji who managed 3,143 votes.
Despite fielding candidates in all the three polls, Jubilee Party came out empty handed.
Politicians in the party attributed the losses to a number of factors, including the handing of nominations to weak candidates, succession politics in Central Kenya and divisions among politicians.
High-handedness and police intimidation played a big role in Bonchari where the vote outcome was seen as a protest against events before and during polling.
Jubilee Party deputy secretary general Joshua Kutuny and Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, strong supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta, yesterday acknowledged that the party had suffered a major blow and blamed the situation mainly on mismanagement of primaries, citing the case of Juja.
“Our team lost this battle. We made mistakes in Juja and Rurii and at various stages of these by-elections.
This is the second time this has happened. Our rivals take advantage of these mistakes to our detriment,” said Ngunjiri.
Kutuny said the losses will push the party leaders to the drawing board, adding that mismanagement of primaries played a big role. Some commentators cited the nomination of relatives of deceased lawmakers as contributing to the loss.
“We are happy about what has happened. We are happy because it has happened at this time. It is a lesson to us.
We will now go back to the drawing table and correct the shortcomings and Jubilee Party will be the party to beat going forward,” said Kutuny.
It is understood that because of the losses, top Jubilee luminaries yesterday commissioned the gathering of intelligence on the popularity of its aspirants in the upcoming Kiambaa by-election in Kiambu County where three relatives of deceased former MP Paul Koinange are seeking the party ticket in primaries slated for Saturday.
Buoyed by the victory in Juja, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria yesterday unveiled US-based Raymond Kuria, a two-time contestant, as his Peoples Empowerment Party’s candidate for the July 15 polls.
In Kisii, ODM county chairman Kerosi Ondieki blamed the Jubilee loss on the police raid on Governor James Ongwae’s residence last week where he was hosting local Senator Sam Ongeri and Woman Rep Janet Ongera for dinner, triggering the solidarity of angry members in support of Oimeke.
Yesterday, ODM leader Raila Odinga condemned the massive deployment of security officers to Bonchari and the arrest of a section of its leaders, saying it was meant to intimidate and scare away voters.
“What we have witnessed in Bonchari and Juja is an abuse of police powers and an arrogant display of impunity by a few overzealous and bellicose government functionaries,” Raila said.
It was pointed out that in the case of Juja, Jubilee had fielded Susan Njeri, the widow of former area MP Francis Waititu alias Wakapee, instead of George Koimburi, a diehard supporter of Uhuru.
Koimburi was forced to defect to Kuria’s party after he became apprehensive that the ruling party would rig him out in favour of a political greenhorn.
While Jubilee Party was keen to recapture the seat, Kuria who has been fighting to build a name in Mt Kenya politics, was determined to use the by-election as proof that he was gaining popularity in the region.
Dr Michael Mugo, the director of Foundation for Dialogue and a political analyst, told People Daily that Jubilee Party goofed by fielding Mrs Waititu at the expense of Koimburi, whose popularity was tested in 2017 when he emerged second, adding had be given the ticket, he would have won with ease.
“In the Juja case, the candidate who won (Koimburi) was the strongest one from the word go. We should stop being so sympathetic that we want to hand nominations to relatives of leaders who die and deny the able and popular candidates.
Julius Taki, the Ward Rep of Witeithie in Juja constituency blamed the loss on dishonesty in party primaries which forced Koimburi to decamp to Kuria’s party, denying Jubilee victory.
The loss in Nyandarua’s Rurii ward to UDA was blamed on local succession politics that resulted in disjointed campaigns.
Pundits said that Jubilee candidate Thinji’s defeat was a protest vote against Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia, a close ally who had hand-picked him during primaries.
Dr Simon Kanyingi blamed Jubilee headquarters for the Rurii loss, saying despite being aware that Kimemia “was experiencing hostility on the ground,” they allowed him to remain as the face of Jubilee in the county and head of Thinji’s campaign.
“Rurii by-election is a wakeup call to Jubilee. Jubilee cannot send Governor Francis Kimemia to make more promises to Rurii people and yet he has not fulfilled the old promises he made to them,” Kanyingi said.
Jubilee also suffered because of divisions among key Nyandarua leaders, which saw Kimemia, Water Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya and Ol Kalou MP David Kiaraho campaign separately for Thinji against a united onslaught by the UDA team led by Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara.