The political marriage between the ruling Jubilee Party under President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) under Raila Odinga and the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) is nearer than ever following the convergence of the three political factions in Nairobi on Saturday, February 26.
In what can be interpreted as a done deal, President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party held its National Delegates Conference (NDC) that was graced by Raila of ODM and the OKA principals led by Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper and Gideon Moi of the independence party KANU.
Although the Head of State and Raila had entered an informal deal to work together since March 2018 through the famed handshake, the arrival and presence of the latter at the convention was a sign enough to solidify the deal.
Kenyatta has, time and again, openly campaigned for the ODM leader as his preferential successor when he retires from his role as the Head of State in August this year.
The presence of Kalonzo and Senator Moi at the Jubilee NDC comes barely 24 hours after the One Kenya Alliance announced that it had started a series of consultative meetings and negotiations with both the Jubilee Party and the ODM through the Azimio La Umoja coalition.
Musyoka’s hit at joining the Azimio La Umoja faction was, however, met by conditions from his Ukambani backyard Governors who advised him to tone down on his expectations as he was a latecomer to the party.
Kenyatta, who has been at the country’s helm since March 2013, has been on record brokering a deal between OKA and ODM, with the promise to back the formidable coalition in the August polls against his political ally turned foe, Deputy President William Ruto.
Since Ruto fell out of favour with Uhuru, his campaigns and the political journey has been met with resistance, with the government going to the extent of blocking him from leaving the country late last year.
However, with Ruto being a political student of the late Daniel Moi - Kenya’s second and longest-serving President - he has remained steadfast in his race to State House.
Should Jubilee, ODM (and Azimio La Umoja by extension), and OKA pen a deal to field one presidential candidate, DP Ruto will have an uphill task to clinch the presidency as the three political factions hold a very strong numerical strength when it comes to the number of voters.
With Raila having been endorsed by his ODM party and Uhuru's Jubilee Party to run for the presidency, the focus will now shift to the position of the running mate.
In the 2013 and 2017 elections, Kalonzo was Raila's running mate, a position he has vowed not to go for again. It will also be remembered that last year, Musyoka stated that he would be the most stupid person if he were to support Raila for the third time in a row. But will he swallow his pride?
At the same time, the vote-rich Mt Kenya region, which is seen as backrolling Raila's presidential campaign through the billionaires’ club - Mt Kenya Foundation, is keen to settle for nothing less. This complicates the arithmetic and positions sharing.
The failure of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to meet the minimum legal threshold has affected this merger as it was creating a more bloated executive that would see almost, if not all, frontrunners in OKA, ODM and Jubilee given prime positions.
Just like the Mt Kenya region, the Lower Eastern, Coast and Western Kenya are all keen to claim the running mate’s position. But whom will the former Prime Minister settle for? In this scenario, Raila and his Azimio La Umoja brigade will have to enter a negotiated democracy post-election pact with all the partners.
Sharing of Elective Seats
This year’s polls are different from the previous ones in many ways. Following the signing into law of the controversial elections bill, there is technically no room for defections for those who lose in the party nominations. The losers cannot also not be nominated as the list of the potential nominees will have been deposited with the Registrar of Political Parties and cannot be amended.
In cosmopolitan counties like Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kajiado and Laikipia where competition and interests are high, coalition partners including OKA, Jubilee and ODM are free to field their own candidates.
However, to narrow down the chances of losing in these prime positions, the coalitions can agree to field a joint candidate for the various positions including that of the Governor, Senator and Woman Representative.
The coalition partners, however, will have to enter into an agreement outlining the positions that can be contested individually by parties and those that will be contested by a coalition candidate.
For instance in Nairobi, the coalition partners may agree to field a gubernatorial candidate from ODM, a senatorial candidate from Jubilee and a Woman Rep candidate from OKA. However, this is subject to the letter and spirit of the coalition agreement amongst the partners.
Fielding a single candidate will narrow the chances of the opposing faction’s candidate winning the coveted posts.
As things stand now, it is a wait-and-see situation.