Saturday, 17 September 2016

After the Grand Merger; What Are the Stakes & Possibilities?

The dissolution of the affiliate parties that made up the Jubilee coalition to form a single entity in the name of Jubilee Party of Kenya is undoubtedly a critical juncture in the country’s political history. What remains to be seen largely is if and how the newly formed party will be able to survive and thrive in the long-term. The survival of the new kid on the block is pegged on a number of factors and of course its formation might also politically emasculate the other parties which have positioned themselves as outright competitors for political power.

One of the pitfalls that the Jubilee Party needs to strategically circumvent is the sharing of the party positions. The sharing of the party positions on interim basis, as initially perceived, would be done in such a manner so as to accommodate at least all the parties that were dissolved en route to the grand merger. But word has it that the then officials of the now defunct Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) are touted to take over the administration of the party secretariat on an interim basis. The probability that the Jubilee Party will conduct party elections before the forthcoming general election is very minimal and may not even happen because of the likelihood of the emergence of political faults and rifts within the party.

This implies that a well crafted road map is needed so as to accommodate the possible dissenting voices. But a point to ponder is if the former members of the smaller parties should be able to get an almost equal share of the party positions with the likes of the defunct United Republican Party (URP) and The National Alliance (TNA). This certainly cannot happen. So what is the probable leverage to counter this? My hunch is that the former members of the dissolved smaller parties will be promised lucrative positions in government in the event that President Kenyatta is re-elected. Therefore, as at now, the issue of sharing the party positions isn’t a Herculean task as such.

Another hurdle that lays ahead of Jubilee Party’s path to seamless political operations is the aspect of party primaries. Nominations have always been a thorn in the flesh of political parties in Kenya and how the President’s new party will deal with this particular challenge will largely determine its existence in the medium-term to the long-term. The foremost strategy that has been hatched to ward off this challenge is the intention of having the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) conduct the party nominations.

The perception that is shared among the party’s stalwarts and political faithful is that the conduction of the party’s primaries by the state’s electoral body guarantees transparency in the nomination process. But will this move be able to counter the machine politics within the party? Seeking for political favors from the party’s honchos will aggressively take place considering the fact that the nomination process is expected to be a battle of its own kind. The reality that certain candidates might be favored by the party’s ‘who and who’ cannot be dispensed whatsoever and hence how this weighty political matter will be handled is an absolute fundamental question.

The level of aggressiveness in terms of the machine politics will determine the rate of the pre-nominations turnover. In this case, the stakes are generally high for the party’s primaries and those who might not be in good terms with the high and mighty risk a bleak political future because this is a black and white matter that even the IEBC by overseeing the party’s nominations cannot control.
So, what is the possibility in view of this scenario? Defections might take place long before the end of the window stipulated by the respective piece of legislation. This may be a tricky affair for the Jubilee Party especially if the defectors appear to be very popular on the ground. In the event that such defectors win political seats, it would as well have worked against the party’s wish to have an unmatched majority in Parliament.

Heading towards the 2017 general election, the strategists of the Jubilee Party cannot ignore the fact that the presence of the Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) and the Kenya African National Union (KANU) especially in the Rift Valley region portend a treacherous political path for the party. The possibility that KANU will collaborate with Isaac Ruto’s CCM is relatively high as the two seek to position themselves strategically as alternative political havens for the Rift Valley residents bearing in mind that URP has been dissolved. That whether KANU and CCM will give the Jubilee Party a run for its money or if the latter will totally enfeeble the two remains to be witnessed but from my perspective, it is still early to make definite conclusions on this issue.

What makes the political drift in the Rift region to be interesting is the Moi-Ruto (Deputy President) factor of just who owes who and what? On one hand DP Ruto claims that Gideon Moi should support him because he religiously supported Toroitich Moi. But a disclaimer on this political hot potato is the bitterness within the elderly Moi on how the Deputy President wrestled the kingpin status away from him as he had strategically groomed his son, Gideon Moi, to take over. Therefore, the Baringo Senator is charged with the mandate of re-claiming the status of the region’s kingpin from DP Ruto and this moment being the sunset years of the former second president, then the political battle might as well intensify.

The possibility that the Jubilee Party is on course to being Kenya’s largest political party is relatively high, basing though on the primary vagueness of the current state of affairs. However, to ensure that it delivers a political sucker punch to its competitors, the Jubilee Party has created a window for forming pre-election and post-election pacts and coalitions with other willing political parties. This really maximizes its chances of securing a majority in both Houses.

Ultimately, the vibrancy of the Jubilee Party is furtherly pegged on the organization of the political parties on the other side of the political divide. The organization of the opposition political parties will irrefutably determine and affect the modus operandi of the Jubilee party; a disjointed opposition will guarantee a not-so-difficult sail through for the Jubilee party whereas a properly oiled opposition will certainly create a vicious electoral battle.

Presciently, the Jubilee strategists are well prepared to counter Raila Odinga and largely CORD. Whether Odinga will vie for the presidency or not, his political moves cannot be ignored whatsoever.  So what if the much rumored ‘Super Alliance’ the possible coalition of the Orange party, Wiper, Ford Kenya, Amani National Congress and KANU takes shape? This would highly counter Jubilee’s moves especially when a partnership involving Gideon Moi plus either Kalonzo or Mudavadi is fronted for the presidency. However, at the moment, this is largely an expected scenario and perhaps a political illusion.

At the end of it all, the bottom line is whether the Jubilee Party will stand against the test of time and usher in a new political era as it has been envisaged, different from the other past junctures. Only time will tell.

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