The Jubilee Party has launched the process of forming its regional party infrastructure. This structure is crucial for the party as it heads towards the 2017 general election.
At the end of this process, JP will have set up a grassroots network that crisscrosses Kenya, in every village and hamlet, and all the way to every single polling station. This grassroots network is a critical aspect of Jubilee winning at the 2017 polls. This is what will sell the party, the candidates — from the President to to the MCAs — and party policies, to the voters.
Other than selling the party and mobilising support for President Uhuru and other Jubilee candidates, the grassroots network has one more important function. This network is what will mobilise voters to get out and vote for the President and all the other hopefuls on the Election Day, across the country. Even more importantly, this network will ensure the votes cast are not tampered with.
The JP party headquarters must therefore get this process right.
Of primary concern is how much influence incumbent MPs and MCAs are trying to get over the formation of this network. Anyone who understands the intrigues behind the regional supremacy fights we have been reading about within Jubilee strongholds knows that what is going on are attempts by incumbents to entrench themselves and their allies into the county networks. This is natural because if an incumbent manages to maneuver into pole positions in JP, especially in a Jubilee stronghold, they are nearly guaranteed of reelection.
However, what the party headquarters must keep in mind is that in every local election, more votes are cast cumulatively for those who lose, than for the winner. This means for Jubilee to get majority support at every branch,more so in the strongholds, and for it to build a strong party membership, the party needs the support of the thousands of aspirants who want to run under its banner. This is without losing the backing of the 300 or so current incumbents who are defending their seats.
Of course there is the argument from the incumbents that they deserve positions in the party because they have been supporting the party financially through their monthly contributions — to the parties that merged. However, TNA proved that parties can actually raise a lot more funds from selling membership and party merchandise directly to the public, than from collecting contributions from its elected leaders. Going directly to the public and incorporating all aspirants, both the incumbents and new entrants has an added advantage of enhancing party acceptability much faster than when the party seems straitjacketed by incumbents.
There are the lessons we should learn from history about incumbency. Since the advent of multiparty elections in Kenya, close to 70 per cent of elected leaders are sent home every five years. This is expected to get even worse in 2017, especially in Jubilee strongholds where frustration with local leaders is at an all-time high. Next year's elections could send home as high as 85 per cent of sitting legislators. This is critical information for a party that is planning to build its substantive social infrastructure after the next general election.
The Jubilee Party is therefore safer depending more on the support from aspirants — in their thousands, and cumulatively control majority of the voters in each constituency — than on incumbents who control the minority vote, and will most likely be out of office when the party is setting up its structures after 2017. This will also ensure Uhuru gets the parliamentary majority in both Houses to consolidate his legacy in his second and final term. So this week JP must go wide when setting up its transitional structures.