Why small parties are playing hard to get in poll deals
Hillary Mageka and Kepher Otieno
Leading presidential candidates are fighting to secure the support of small parties in the high stakes 2022 election.
Less than 10 months to the polls, leading presidential candidates in Deputy President William Ruto, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi have been holding meetings with leaders of smaller parties to woo them to their side.
Out of the more than 80 registered political parties, only about seven – ODM, United Democratic Alliance, Kanu, Wiper, ANC, Mandeleo Chap Chap, Roots Party of Kenya and Usawa Kwa Wote of Mwangi Wa Iria – have declared interest in fronting a presidential candidate in next year’s election.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party is unlikely to field a candidate, although most of its leaders support Raila. There are reports that the ruling party is working on a coalition agreement with the Orange party.
There has been a rush to rebrand parties, change ownership and register new ones as the election draws close.
It was Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua who appeared to drive the point home on Saturday when she warned leaders of smaller parties against giving in to pressure to fold them.
Speaking in Kirinyaga when she hosted former United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) boss Mukhisa Kituyi, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Karua warned that dissolving the parties would deny them the bargaining power.
“How will we be able to negotiate for the political interests of our people if we dissolve our parties? If you don’t want to suffer, maintain your parties,” Karua warned.
According to Prof Munene Macharia, formerly a lecturer at USIU-Africa, the fear of losing in party primaries, desire to make quick money, and bargaining for seats after the elections, has created a booming business in small outfits.
“Fringe parties are going to play a significant role in 2022 elections. Besides the traditional regional blocs, the smaller parties are likely to be the deciding factor and leading presidential aspirants can only ignore them at their own peril,” Munene observes.
He says small parties are forcing their way into coalitions with the aim of benefiting from structured negotiations and MoUs that would see them get a share of election spoils.
There has been growing disquiet within Ruto’s camp in Mt Kenya region after a section of politicians, among them Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri rejected the DP’s call to fold their parties.
This forced Ruto to eat humble pie and embrace the small parties to avoid a possible rebellion.
Addressing a rally in Migori county last month, Ruto said he would partner with fringe parties in next year’s election.
Since early this year, several regional-based parties have emerged.
For instance, in Nyanza and Western regions, regional parties have lined up to support either Raila, Mudavadi or Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula’s Ford Kenya.
In Rift Valley, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto-led Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) has thrown its weight behind Ruto.
“Tunavaa gumboots lakini tunasukuma wheelbarrow (we put on gumboots while pushing the wheelbarrow), we are full behind Ruto’s candidature,” Ruto told People Daily on Sunday.
Gumboots are the symbol of CCM while DP is associated with the wheelbarrow.
In Coast, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi has been dangling his Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) to One Kenya Alliance which brings together Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Wetang’ula and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.
United Progressive Alliance, said to be linked to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, has been trying to win the support of leaders in the Gusii region.
In Ukambani, Muungano Party, Chama Cha Umma (CCU), Narc and Maendeleo Chap Chap are seeking to eat into Wiper Party and Kalonzo’s support base. The four parties are backing Raila.
Muungano Party and Maendeleo Chap Chap are led by governors Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) respectively. Both of them have declared presidential ambitions.
Mt Kenya seems to have the largest number of small parties, including The Service Party (TSP), Democratic Party, Party of National Unity (PNU), Civic Renewal Party, Ubuntu People’s Forum (UPF), People’s Empowerment Party, Devolution Party of Kenya, associated with Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, and Restore and Build Party of Kenya.
In a recent interview with a radio station, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, who is the Narc party leader, told Kalonzo to swallow his pride and back Raila for the presidency in next year’s election.
“Kalonzo Musyoka is a good leader, and so are his One Kenya Alliance partners Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula and Gideon Moi. But they can’t beat Raila in terms of votes.
If we decide to go alone as the Kamba community, we will be disadvantaged,” she said.
In Migori, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is fronted by Governor Okoth Obado, has indicated intention to team up with Ruto for the 2022 election.
Obado was first elected governor on the People’s Democratic Party ticket in 2013 after he ditched ODM.
He, however, successfully defended his seat in the 2017 election on an ODM ticket.
But he has since differed with the party leadership and has announced that he will seek the presidency on a PDP ticket.
Agriculture CS Peter Munya last week said that PNU will work with ODM in next year’s election.
“We are not folding up but we are going to work together with ODM. Just like Jubilee, we are also in the government that will be formed in the next dispensation,” said Munya who has declared interest in recapturing the Meru gubernatorial seat.
He added: “We shall field candidates all over Mt Kenya like any other party but on presidency, we shall support Raila.”
Laikipia Governor Nderitu Mureithi, who was elected on an independent ticket but has shifted to PNU, lauded the working relations between the party and Raila.
“As Mt Kenya we are ready to work with Raila,” he said.
Former Kiambu governor William Kabogo has also unveiled a political outfit dubbed Tujibebe Wakenya Party, which he says he will use to vie for the presidency.
A fortnight ago, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui unveiled his own party, the Ubuntu People’s Forum.
Kinyanjui is among the Mt Kenya region governors who have declared they will back Raila.
Speaker of the National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi is also keen on uniting small parties to back his presidential campaign.
During a visit to Ugenya, Siaya County, Muturi, called for unity.
“I am going to move to every part of the country to court voters and small parties to join me,’’ said the Speaker.
He was hosted by the area MP David Ochieng, the party leader of the Movement for Democratic Growth party.