• The Star has established that the two parties are already laying the ground for the crucial elections
• Mismanagement may sink them into uncharted political waters that would negatively impact on their 2022 chances
• Tuju said Jubilee has developed a calendar that will be rolled out from June, including a training framework for its members across the country
The country’s leading political parties Jubilee and ODM are gearing up for grassroots elections in what could set the tempo for 2022 polls.
While ODM held its internal elections in August 2015, Jubilee, the ruling party, has had no democratically elected office bearers since its formation in the lead-up to the 2017 polls.
Jubilee, headed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Raila Odinga’s ODM, are expected to invest heavily in the internal polls to buttress their bastions as springboards for the presidential contest, now 41 months away.
The polls are all important because they are part of a democratic process through which parties recruit new members, raid opponents’ turfs and strengthen grassroots support.
Internal polls also gauge the parties’ individual strengths to project any formidable performance in upcoming presidential contests because it is by such process that various candidates for elective seats are picked.
Grassroots leaders are the bedrock of presidential nominations as they make up the crucial party decision-making organs, including the National Delegates Convention, which elects the presidential flag-bearers.
The Star has established that the two parties are laying the ground for the crucial elections, which are likely litmus tests for the outfits’ unity and grip on their bastions.
Mismanagement may sink them into uncharted political waters that would negatively impact their 2022 chances.
Previously, such elections have triggered vicious fallouts, violence and even resulted in the formation of fringe parties.
Jubilee secretary general and Cabinet Secretary without portfolio Raphael Tuju told the Star that the ruling party plans to conduct its inaugural grassroots elections early next year.
Tuju insists the party is intact and will go on with its poll preparations. “Unless there is something like a legal order for an extension, we plan to do our elections before March 2020 to ensure that the same does not interfere with competitive politics in 2022,” Tuju said.
He said if elections are left too close to the 2022 polls, they would impact negatively on the party’s performance.
The elections will come at a time when the governing party is staring at an implosion triggered by widening cracks over government policies, including Uhuru's onslaught against corruption.
Deputy President William Ruto is critical of the war on corruption, with his allies accusing the President of unfairly targeting his principal assistant.
With the DP in a vantage position to succeed Uhuru (in spite of the anti-Ruto force), the grassroots polls pose a major threat for Jubilee compared to ODM.
Should the elections flop, they could lead to an emergence of a splinter wing, which could pose a challenge to Ruto’s 2022 bid.
Already, some Jubilee MPs have formed an anti-Ruto movement and are pushing to block him from succeeding Uhuru in 2022.
ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna said the party's internal polls are scheduled for next year in accordance with the party constitution, which provides for elections after every five years.
According to Sifuna, the party has been strengthening its branches across the country to ensure they have functional offices and interim leadership where there are vacancies arising from desertion, resignation or death.
It is expected that both parties will splash millions of shillings for the polls.
Sifuna warned that unless Parliament approves enough funds to the Political Parties Fund, as required under the law, parties will be unable to meet most of their expenditures due to financial constraints.
The Constitution provides for a 0.3 per cent share of the national revenue but parties have been receiving much less from the political parties fund.
JUBILEE'S CALENDAR OF ACTIVITIES
Tuju said Jubilee has a calendar that will be rolled out from June this year, including a training framework for its members. “We have put the programme in place and it is ready. We are only waiting for an opportune time for the top party leadership to launch it.”
Members will be trained on integrity and party ideology. “We have an elaborate education programme in partnership with some institutions in the country. Members will then know there are an ideological underpinning and degree of responsibility that we expect from them,” Tuju said.
The training is meant to advance party loyalty and weed out lukewarm supporters who are usually compromised during primaries to cross over to rival parties.
“Unless we train our members, you will end up having members who support a popular candidate and not necessarily the ideologies of the Jubilee party,” he added.
Jubilee is expected to start off their education programme with training for the trainers in Nairobi, an exercise that will be launched by Uhuru and Ruto.
Current officials are in office on an interim basis since the party’s launch in 2017 after attempts to hold grassroots polls flopped.
With interim officials’ term ending early next year, Jubilee will seek to ward off a walkout by some 10 parties that were collapsed into the umbrella party.
Internal elections are usually characterised by cut-throat competition that results in political fissures and defections if the process is mismanaged.
ODM is the only party that conducts elections regularly. Our elections are on schedule next yearODM Sec General, Edwin Sifuna when he spoke to the Star on Thursday.
ODM is also rolling out a series of activities. The party held elections in 2015. The five-year term of current officials expires in August 2020 but the party would want to hold the polls much earlier.
Sifuna, who has been on a whirlwind tour of the party’s branches countrywide, said ODM will not shy away from the internal polls. “We want to ensure that we rejuvenate our branches and recruit more members to stamp our grassroots presence ahead of our own elections next year,” he said.
Internal party elections are a sign of intra-party democracy in which members feel involved in decision-making. But both parties are likely to suffer massive defections.
The party held its election in 2015 and according to the ODM constitution, the five-year term of current officials expires in August 2020 but the party would want to do the polls much earlier.
Sifuna who has been on a whirlwind tour of the party’s branches countrywide said the ODM will not shy away from the internal polls.
“We want to ensure that we rejuvenate our branches and recruit more members to stamp our grassroots presence ahead of our own elections next year,” he said.
While internal party elections are considered a sign of intra-party democracy as it makes members feel involved in decision-making, but both parties are likely to suffer heavy casualties with massive defections.