Kenyan Parties Vie for New Voters Ahead of Polls

By Erick Oduor

The two main political coalitions in Kenya, the Jubilee Alliance and the Coalition for Reform and Democracy, are battling it out to increase the number of voters in their strongholds in preparation for next year’s General Election.

Governors, Senators, members of the National Assembly, County Assembly members and aspirants seeking various political seats in 2017 are at the centre of the clarion call from the top leadership of Jubilee and Cord to ensure that all potential voters are registered.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission launched voter registration last week, expecting to list at least four million new voters in the one-month drive that will be concluded on March 16. The electoral body expects to carry out another registration exercise next year.

Both Jubilee and Cord have held separate meetings with governors to activate their networks in order to meet targets based on data they are using to monitor the registration exercise.

So high are the stakes, that Cord’s leadership raised the alarm, claiming that the registration kits the electoral body deployed in their strongholds are not enough to register all potential voters.

Both Jubilee and Cord have also moved to protect their turfs, activating their networks to keep a close eye on the ongoing voter registration exercise.

It is understood that in a meeting early last week in Kisumu, Cord principals Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula instructed the coalition’s governors to personally lead the mobilisation of potential voters to register.

Suna East Member of Parliament Junet Mohammed, who is also the Orange Democratic Movement director of elections, said the party, one of the many that form Cord, is using its structures from the ward to county levels to mobilise supporters to register as voters.

“We are focusing on our strongholds — Nyanza, Western, Coast and Nairobi — to increase our chances of winning,” Mr Mohammed told The EastAfrican.

On the Jubilee side, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election strategy is focused on the formation of a new party that will endorse him. After months of disagreements, affiliate parties to the Jubilee Coalition, which supported the president in the last election, have finally sealed a deal to merge.

Similar efforts failed before after some of the affiliate parties rejected the merger proposal over fears that elected leaders could lose their seats as stipulated in the Political Party Act.

Leader of the majority in parliament Aden Duale has proposed amendments to the Political Parties Act, which were tabled last week, to provide for transition of MPs from one party to another without losing their seats.

This, he said, will see all political leaders who were elected on Jubilee affiliate party tickets transit into the new outfit — Jubilee Party — by March 31. The main parties in the Jubilee Coalition are The National Alliance and the United Republican Party.

Mr Duale said President Kenyatta’s re-election campaign is on course, and all Jubilee governors and other elected leaders have been tasked to see that all potential voters who recently acquired national identity cards register as voters.

Mr Duale laughed off Cord’s strategy, saying its leadership has been misleading the public with false figures of new identity cards to intimidate the electoral body.

He told The EastAfrican that Jubilee has all the data, detailing the new national identity cards that were issued between January 2013 and 2016.

According to him, the party is targeting the Rift Valley region, which acquired approximately 605,000 new national identity cards, Central, where at least 290,000 new national identity cards were issued, upper Eastern with 180,000 and Coast with 250,000, which he noted will be shared with Cord. He added that Nairobi region had the lowest number of new national identity cards issued.

Prior to President Kenyatta’s Central tour, he had pitched tent in the Coastal region — one of the opposition’s stronghold — where he commissioned a national street lighting project and handed land title deeds to squatters.

The Coastal region is considered Cord’s stronghold and analysts view the forthcoming by-election in Malindi constituency as a litmus test for the impact of the basket of goodies that President Kenyatta distributed in the area during his three-week stay in Mombasa.

The issues of land and poverty in the Coastal region remain a major headache for the government, despite the area being the main tourism destination in the country.

The government recently appointed Cord’s Dan Kazungu Mining Cabinet Secretary in a recent reshuffle, in a bid to gain a foothold in the area. The appointment has occasioned a by-election slated for March 7.

The Coastal region has four counties — Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu and Kwale. Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, who is ODM’s deputy party leader, is touted as the region’s political kingpin.

In the vote-rich Rift Valley region, Deputy President William Ruto will have to battle with emerging centres of power. The region is expected to provide a swing vote in next year’s polls.

Although the vast region is divided into two major voting blocs — South Rift and North Rift — it has taken a common stand in previous elections and the Kericho Senatorial by-election slated for March 7 is expected to act as a litmus test for emerging forces from the region led by Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto.

The Bomet governor’s party gained a surprise win in the county assembly by-election for Nyongeres, where a Mashinani Party candidate trounced the Jubilee Alliance Party.

The two former political allies, who spearheaded the Jubilee Alliance’s campaign in the region, are pulling apart following differences over the manner in which the parties are being forced to merge into a new political party.

President Kenyatta has publicly declared that all parties that formed the Jubilee Alliance in the run-up to the last general election will be wound up to pave the way for the formation of a new party.

Source: All Africa