Kenya: Political parties rush to beat primaries deadline

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Thursday, 7 April 2022 10:46, updated on Friday, 8 April 2022 09:48

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto delivers a speech, at an event in Nairobi
Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto delivers a speech after being endorsed by delegates from Kenya's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Party as their presidential candidate for the August elections, at an event in Nairobi, Kenya, March 15, 2022. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The pressure is on ahead of Kenya's 9 August polls as political parties have until 22 April to conclude their primaries and present names of successful candidates to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for approval. But can these primaries be guaranteed to be free and fair?

Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) was the first to kick off its primaries on 1 April. The party intends to conclude this process on 20 April, two days before the deadline.

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA), led by the Deputy President William Ruto, has announced that its party primaries will take place on April 14.

In 2017, ODM was criticised for unfair and chaotic primaries that led to aspirants either defecting to other parties or vying as independent candidates.

At the start of this year’s primaries, John Mbadi (ODM’s national chairman) assured presidential hopefuls that the exercise will be free and fair. “ODM is a democratic party,” he said.

I don’t like what my party is doing. We should be left to choose our candidate.

However, the decision to issue direct tickets to some of Raila’s loyalists has caused anxiety in the party’s strongholds, particularly at the Coast and Western Kenya.

Homa Bay Women Representative Gladys Wanga, who is running for governor, is one of the prominent politicians who has been handed a direct ticket. This decision has angered former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, who is vying for the same seat. He says he will now contest as an independent candidate.

Benson Wakoli, an ODM member, is also against direct nomination and wants all candidates to be subjected to the party primaries. “I don’t like what my party is doing. We should be left to choose our candidate,” he tells The Africa Report.

Nevertheless, ODM remains adamant that all aspirants who are highly popular – based on opinion polls and with consensus from the party – will get direct nomination. “We don’t just issue tickets, we consult,” says Mbadi.

Will UDA primaries be different?

The party primaries for Ruto’s newly created UDA party are also of keen interest.

While announcing the date for the primaries, the party’s national elections board chairperson, Anthony Mwaura, assured all aspirants that the exercise will be free, fair and transparent. “We are set for the exercise. It will be a democratic,” he said.

To ensure the primaries run smoothly, the party has announced that more than 30 million ballot papers have been printed ahead of the exercise.

On Monday, Ruto met UDA aspirants and said he will supervise the primaries to ensure that they are above board and aspirants are satisfied. “I want to assure all candidates across the of a credible nomination,” he said.

Words over actions

Caroline Mutai, who supports Ruto and UDA candidates, however says she is worried that party officials may not keep their promise. “I really don’t trust these politicians. They should disappoint me.”

Professor Herman Manyora, a political analyst from the University of Nairobi, reiterates Mutai’s sentiments. He says despite promises from the organisers of these primaries, things will not be any different this time round because politics in Kenya is still ethnic and regional based.

“Both parties will have a challenge. Politics in Kenya is still concentrated on big names.”

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