The ‘third horse’ has bolted out of the stable of conventional party protocol. Parties can do nothing to stop the beast – a creation of the 2010 Constitution – in flight at full throttle.
The possibilities of this force should worry party honchos. Not even the dominant parties allied to the National Super Alliance can overlook the numerical strength and popularity of some independent candidates. Their game-changing potential, especially in presidential voter turnout, cannot be gainsaid.
There is also post-election impact of independents on party strength in Parliament and county assemblies. They will also undercut annual Treasury financial allocations to the parties. This considers a party’s parliamentary strength, and its candidate’s presidential vote.
Four thousand-plus independent candidates are competing for the six elective positions, including president and governor. The strength of the non-aligned force is third only to that of Jubilee and ODM in terms of candidates presented for election.
The independent candidates are well above the hyped alternatives such as presidential aspirant Ekuro Ekuot’s Thirdway Alliance Kenya. Former ODM secretary general Ababu Namwamba’s ‘third force’ deflated on arrival.
Jubilee has surrendered to the third force of at least 200 candidates in Central alone. Spiting this constituency means inviting voter apathy, which will undermine the presidential vote count. Allowing them to mobilise means mopping up the presidential vote.
Independent candidate Kiambu Governor William Kabogo is running against the streetwise Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu of Jubilee. Waititu is a carpetbagger from Embakasi, the hotbed of Nairobi politics.
Uhuru Kenyatta, the Jubilee presidential candidate, has a standing invitation for dialogue, and possible endorsement, with independent candidates from Central, his turf.
The Kenya Independent Candidates Alliance tells Jubilee to get ready for a tough ride to the ballot. But the Jubilee spillover supports Uhuru for a second term.
NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga has been strategically cautious, saying ‘independent candidates are our people’. The former Prime Minister’s presidential run is safer if he stays in the middle ground, even as some ODM nominees kneel for his support.
Vulnerable party candidates know the ticket does not guarantee the vote of party members after bungled primaries. Party members saw some of the strongest party aspirants edged out in the most shambolic primaries since the return of multi-party politics in 1991.
Supporters of these aspirants have egged them onto the independent route. These voters have a bone to pick with incumbents who have messed up the county economies. They have seen the meddlers wield proceeds of plunder to subvert democracy. They have seen and are tired of the impunity-inspired arrogance of some governors.
The angry voters have the vote, but their tormentors have the clout of incumbency, money and party support. The resolve is, the vote shall speak for the voiceless majority.
Funyula MP Paul Otuoma opened the floodgates of ‘independence’ after a bungled clash for the ODM ticket with Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong.
The Homa Bay county tango between Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga and the incumbent Cyprian Awiti will be interesting to watch. Just like the clash between ODM ticket holder Migori Governor Okoth Obado and former minister Ochilo Ayacko.
Awiti holds the party ticket thanks to bungled party primaries, but Magwanga has the masses. Magwanga addresses core issues such as water shortage, good governance and auditable value for public money. Obado holds the ODM ticket, but Ayacko claims he was denied a deserved victory.
Presidential candidates will need Solomonic wisdom to address independents in their pre-election and post-election strategies. Any position other than the middle ground could backfire.
The miscarriage of democracy in party primaries and a falling faith in political parties explain the soaring ranks of ‘independent’ candidates. Election boards of the dominant parties made this bed, they shall sleep on it.