Fresh details have emerged on President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga’s plot to frustrate Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 poll dreams.
The two, the Nation has established, support a proposal contained in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report that allows political parties to nominate commissioners to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
With Mr Kenyatta battling to fully control the ruling Jubilee Party, he has mooted a 2022 coalition with ODM as well as Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.
“Should the president get a grip on Jubilee, which is inevitable, the DP will be forced to seek an alternative vehicle for 2022,. but with the adverse effect of not having an opportunity to take part in the appointment of IEBC commissioners,” an insider in the Jubilee administration told the Nation.
“It’s on this that Dr Ruto is also trying as much as possible to control Jubilee, as he is aware that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, having the majority lawmakers, will obviously nominate friendly commissioners.”
ODM and Mr Kenyatta’s camp in Jubilee have thrown their weight behind the political parties model akin to the one used in 1997 under the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG), where outfits were allowed to name people to the agency.
In its report, the 14-member BBI team led by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, proposes that leaders of parties with at least one MP be given a role in the recruitment in the commission.
They “should nominate individuals who are non-partisan, with a record of accomplishment and integrity, and who are not known political supporters or activists”, the team recommends.
ODM and Mr Kenyatta’s supporters say this is the best route for Kenya, but Ruto allies are determined to oppose any move by Mr Odinga to reorganise the commission “for political convenience” in 2022.
The two now seem to be headed for a major showdown, with the Ruto-allied Tangatanga camp of the ruling Jubilee Party feeling that allowing parties to nominate IEBC commissioners would be detrimental to his ambitions and a recipe for chaos in the agency.
Views of the DP’s allies are in tandem with what IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati believes. In a memorandum to the BBI team seen by the Nation, he calls the proposal ill-advised.
“Political parties are loyalty-based institutions and are unlikely to have non-partisan individuals. Members’ actions may be motivated by political interest contrary to the Constitution,” Mr Chebukati says in the memorandum.
“Moreover, non-parliamentary parties and independent candidates will have no say in the recruitment, thus denting the credibility of the commission.”
But ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna accused Mr Chebukati of opposing reforms in the commission.
“It’s clear that IEBC has never stood for independence. It hides behind objectivity, but prosecutes partisan agenda … like it did in 2017. It’s better to have people whose allegiances are openly known. Party interests will bring balance just like what happened in 2002,” he said.
Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany said the “hustler wave” has scared everybody, including ODM, leading to proposals regarding the running of elections with the aim of blocking the DP from ascending the top seat.
“The problem with ODM members is that they believe elections are always rigged. Even if Raila were the IEBC chairman and candidate as well, he will announce the actual winner, and still say he was rigged out,” Mr Kositany said.
“Why all this negative energy directed at Ruto? How powerful is this hustler wave?”
Mr Kenyatta’s camp seems determined to take over the ruling party despite protests from his deputy.
During a morning interview on Ramogi FM on Wednesday, Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju defended the proposed changes to the National Management Committee (NEC).
Mr Tuju warned against Ruto allies convening a NEC meeting to challenge the proposals without Mr Kenyatta’s approval.
“Whereas the party constitution allows the deputy party leader to convene an NEC meeting, the deputy party leader can only do that with the approval of the party leader, otherwise he will be staging a coup,” Mr Tuju said.
In 1997, Kenya adopted the IPPG model that allowed parties to name people to the electoral commission.
Mr Samwel Kivuitu was named the electoral agency chief, replacing Justice Zacchaeus Chesoni, whose appointment by President Daniel Moi in 1991 was opposed by opposition parties with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, saying: “He cannot serve even as a member of a school committee.”
Mr Kivuitu, who died in 2013, was replaced by Mr Issack Hassan in 2011 before the entire commission was sent home in 2016, paving the way for the Chebukati team.
Before 1991, polls and the registration of voters were under the supervisor of elections, a civil servant in the Attorney-General’s chambers.
The supervisor presided over parliamentary and local elections held in 1969, 1974, 1979, 1983, and 1988.