• The elections will come at a time when there are fears of an implosion triggered by widening cracks over Uhuru succession politics.
• Ruto plans to take full control of the party he and Uhuru formed in the run-up to the 2017 elections.
The March 2020 Jubilee Party elections will be a do or die for Deputy President William Ruto as he tries to play all cards to control the party ahead of 2022.
Ruto, who intends to be the tenant of the big house on the hill after the exit of President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022, plans to take the full control of the party formed in the run-up to the 2017 general elections.
The elections will come at a time when there are fears of a party implosion triggered by widening cracks over Uhuru succession politics with some powerful individuals in Mt Kenya region opposed to Ruto fuelling the fallout.
And with the term of the current interim officials set to end, the DP’s side sees this as an opportunity to install his lieutenants bolster his 2022 presidential ambitions.
While Jubilee started off in 2017 solidly unified, the handshake between Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga in March 2018 impacted the ruling party, now split into Kieleweke and Tangatanga factions.
The DP is on record accusing the entry of Raila into government through handshake deal as the cause of the infighting and confusion in Jubilee which he has used to lock in Rift Valley and Mt Kenya regions.
Compounded with the raging infighting in Jubilee, the DP will also have to contend with his on and off relationship with party secretary-general Raphael Tuju, the key official to conduct the grassroots elections.
The Ruto camp views Tuju as the enemy within working with DP competitors ahead of 2022 presidential race.
The anti-Ruto forces in and out of government are understood to be planning to use the Jubilee polls to influence the election at anti-Jubilee strongholds such as Nyanza and Coast which will eventually affect delegates who will elect national officials.
As per the Jubilee constitution, the new national officials will be elected by 19 delegates from each of the 47 counties.
Tuju said the much-anticipated party election will be the "most transparent" assuring members that their wishes will be respected.
Tuju who at the time of the interview was in Ghana said the party will be announcing the election roadmap soon after the Christmas festivities.
“All is set for the party election. We are one of the biggest parties in the country and the ruling party and therefore we will conduct a transparent election. We will agree on the methodology in line with our constitution.”
The internal elections are usually characterised by cut-throat competition that results in political fissures and defections if the process is mismanaged and political pundits warn that Ruto should try as much as possible not to interfere.
Poll experts say should the nationwide elections flop, it could lead to a splinter wing, which could pose a challenge to Ruto’s 2022 bid.
Former ODM executive director Magerer Langat said that while “Ruto is the preferred successor of Uhuru, he should be cautious but strategic in handling the elections.”
He said if his hand will be too prominent to the disadvantage of the party members, it will result in fallouts that might result in people quitting a party that enjoys massive support in Rift Valley, Mt Kenya and North Eastern.
“When the party interest supersedes individual interests then you would expect that party loyalists to get rewarded but if there are other issues, which is normally the situation, then you will also get cronies taking important positions for purposes of controlling elections and the direction of the party,” he said
Magerer, who was forced to quit ODM in 2014, said the Jubilee elections will “renew people’s interest in the party" ahead of the 2022 general election.
“Party elections offer an opportunity to weed out those who are no longer loyal. I do not think the elections will be a do or die for DP. Jubilee is still the ruling party and the election will set Ruto’s momentum to prepare for takeover,” he noted.
He added: “Depending on the relationship between him and the President, the election may give an opportunity for some loose ends to become clear. It is good for him so that he can know his friends and gauge his influence.”
He challenged the DP to be cautious not to upset Uhuru’s strongholds that have vowed to stand with him despite the onslaught from the State.
“It will boomerang on him in terms of loyalty and they will start saying if Uhuru will no longer be there, where will we go. They will start either another party or fight back. As much as Ruto is the DP and he stands to benefit, he should try to be neutral so that he can attract Uhuru loyalists and those of his own,” he said.