PNU, TNA fight over Michuki, Saitoti turf
The Party of National Unity and Uhuru Kenyatta's TNA are at loggerheads over which one will field candidates for Kangema and Kajiado North parliamentary seats left vacant by the deaths of ministers John Michuki and George Saitoti. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has indicated that it can and is able to carry out three by-elections — including the Ndhiwa seat left vacant by Orwa Ojode's death — within the seven months remaining before the March 4 general election.
Commission chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan yesterday said the only hitch is that only those who are in the current voters registers in these three constituencies will be allowed to participate. "We don't have cash at hand but as we have done before, we ask Treasury and they have have never failed us with the dozen by-elections we have carried out,” said Hassan.
National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende has yet to declare these seats vacant which would pave way for the by-elections. The PNU says the The National Alliance should not field candidates in Kajiado North and Kangema as these seats were occupied by PNU which should have the onus to fill them. “These seats belonged to the PNU and the two ministers were members of President Kibaki’s coalition government through PNU. It will only be fair if PNU is allowed to retain these seats for the purpose of the by election,” said the party’s organising secretary Maina Kamanda.
Former Environment minister John Michuki died after a short illness in February while Saitoti and Ojode died in a police helicopter crash on June 10. Both Michuki and Saitoti were PNU key MPs and strong allies of President Kibaki. The President is still the PNU national leader though he hardly directly involves himself in the party’s politics.
At the weekend, Nairobi Metropolitan minister Jamleck Kamau said PNU should support the Kangema TNA candidate. He said the best way to honour Michuki, whom he described as "a strong supporter of Uhuru", was to ensure that a TNA candidate succeeds him in Kangema. The proposal was however rejected by PNU which wants TNA to support PNU candidates in these two seats. “These two seats have the potential to divide the Mt Kenya vote. We want the vote to remain united. This block can be divided badly if we do not sit down and discuss and live up to the fact that these are PNU seats,” said Kamanda.
Uhuru, who heads TNA and has declared he is running for State House, had already signed an MoU with Saitoti who was the chair of PNU and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka of the Wiper Democratic Movement. In the MoU, the three leaders and their parties agreed to work together and present one strong presidential candidate in the general election.
The MoU is however hanging in the balance following Saitoti's death and the decision by both Uhuru and Kalonzo to start new political parties which they have strongly been campaigning for. Uhuru had signed the MoU as Kanu chairman while Kalonzo had signed as the leader of ODM Kenya which has since been renamed Wiper Democratic Movement.