After the failed attempt to amend the Constitution to re-introduce the positions of prime minister and two deputies, leading presidential contenders are working with available slots in their negotiations with potential rivals to form coalitions.
While in the public he says he’s not keen on alliances, Deputy President William Ruto, just like the ODM chief Raila Odinga, is courting members of One Kenya Alliance (OKA) and dangling a range of goodies to get their backing.
On the table are running mate (deputy president), chief minister, cabinet secretary, speakers of the bicameral parliament, Senate and National Assembly leadership positions as well as a refund of the monies already spent on campaigns by those who drop their bids.
OKA comprises the quartet of Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) and Gideon Moi (Kanu). Mr Moi has already said he has no qualms working with Mr Odinga, sentiments that drew instant condemnation from the rest of the team with Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, an ally of Mr Mudavadi dismissing him as the weakest link in the alliance.
“Ruto becomes the president, and you his deputy. After 10 years, the man is gone, Ruto out, Mudavadi in,” Ruto ally Boni Khalwale told Mr Mudavadi.
Mount Kenya, where the retiring president hails from, has become a hunting ground for all contenders. They hope to at least bag the running mate slot in what further complicates the equation for the top contenders who are also keen to keep OKA on their side.
Beyond the running mate slot, what ends up as deputy president for the successful ticket, and the 22 cabinet slots, parliamentary leadership positions are a major talking point and are also being dangled as part of alliance horse trading within the Raila and Ruto camps.
Just like in the run-up to the 2017 elections when Nasa dangled the “prime minister” post — a first among equals in the Cabinet, who would be third in command after the president and deputy president — there is already talk of creating the position of “chief minister” to accommodate one regional kingpin.
Besides working on a possible grand coalition which will be unveiled on December 9 when Mr Odinga hosts his Azimio la Umoja meeting in Nairobi, the ODM leader is said to be working on a formula in which no single ethnic group will have no more than its fair share in government.
“The idea here is national unity and inclusion. We want a grand coalition where all Kenyans will feel comfortable to be part of Kenya. No single community will have two slots in the Cabinet and distribution of resources will be equitable,” said Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, a Raila confidant.
Mr Odinga is said to be also working on a formula to create a powerful cabinet secretary who will enjoy the first among equals status in the same way he did when he served as Prime Minister in the grand coalition.
The position being contemplated is akin to the role Mr Odinga played as prime minister in the Grand Coalition government where he was the coordinator and supervisor of government functions.
President Kenyatta tried in his second-term after he picked Interior CS Fred Matiang’i to chair the National and Implementation and Coordinating Committee.
OKA, even as it insists on fielding a presidential candidate, is considering working with other political formations — most likely Mr Odinga’s side — either as a unit or the principals in their individual capacity in what may redraw the political landscape.
Those interviewed for this article, but who spoke in confidence, say part of the negotiations involves “refunding” money any credible aspirant who has agreed to drop his or her bid claims have used in campaigns. This has been a lucrative trade for some in the past.
One of the opposition leaders, who has declared his intention to contest in 2022, has reportedly reached out to the two and offered to withdraw his bid and support for whoever can commit to give him back campaign funds spent so far as a basis to start negotiations for key positions. He is asking for hundreds of millions tabulated from supposed spending on his political activities.
Whereas the DP has publicly said he is not seeking coalitions, he is talking to politicians leading smaller parties and are resisting the idea of dissolving them to join others and form one party as was the case with Jubilee in 2017.
Clouded by so many painful experiences, political parties are insisting on retaining their identities in the event they join alliances, to avoid what befell Jubilee and which forced Dr Ruto to bolt out and form his own UDA.
Mr Odinga’s ODM and Party of National Unity have signed a pact on zoning where they have agreed not to compete at the ballot as a way of boosting their chances of gaining a parliamentary majority, where parliamentary leadership positions will be on offer.
Governor Nderitu Muriithi, who among others, has been mentioned as Mr Odinga’s possible deputy, said the deal with ODM is not a love affair but an engagement based on defined PNU aspirations, pursuits and interests in good and progressive governance, economic and political pillars conceived former president Mwai Kibaki in 1997.
“PNU biggest deliverable on governance was the 2010 Constitution and President Uhuru Kenyatta exceeded expectations in infrastructure development. PNU partnering with ODM is in pursuit of the pending business in that vision,” said the governor, adding that many Kenyans do not know BBI proposal was a word for word copy of the Kibaki compact for his 1997 presidential campaign.
The Laikipia governor has assumed the leadership of PNU, and his axis is the force and energy behind ongoing drive to revive branch networks, launch recruitment drives and reach out to former Kibaki allies and PNU-led Grand Coalition government members (2008-2013) among them Democratic Party (DO), Safina and ODM parties for a possible coalition.
Lugari MP Ayub Savula says that OKA has been structured in such a way that all constituent members will enjoy corporate membership as a sign of equality when sharing government positions in the event they seize power in 2022.
“We are working on a coalition agreement that will give details of the power-sharing formula to be deposited with the Registrar of Political Parties. The agreement will share the government equally among all the corporate members and our focus will be to ensure that it will be implemented to the letter,” he said, even as he expressed fear that the surge in popularity of both Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto has become a major threat to the existence of the outfit.
Mr Savula admitted that OKA principals were inundated by ‘all manner of goodies being offered’.
“They are dangling all manner of promises to our principals and this has kind of disoriented the alliance.”
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior, who is also Wiper vice-chairman, welcomed the push for corporate membership but argued that nothing in the political landscape will change as the greatest deficit in Kenyan politics is trust.
“There is nothing different that will be included in the agreement that does not already exist. We have bounds and bounds of brilliant documents which make perfect agreement” he said, while dismissing hope for anything different.
“The problem is the deficit of trust and political deceit among political parties,” he said, citing the case of Jubilee Party in 2017.
He added: “The 2017 Jubilee experiment did not work and unless we deal with the trust issues, no one should expect anything different,” he said, adding that Wiper is keen to secure a coalition that will make it part of the government.
Tharaka Nithi senator Kithure Kindiki, who is allied to Ruto’s UDA, says the question of power-sharing and alliance building has never crossed the mind of the party’s high command, but noted that they will have to deal with it sooner rather than later.
“It’s a reality that we shall have to confront in February when the actual political campaign start proper,” he said, adding that the focus has been on strengthening the party which was formed in the final half of last year, 2020.
The DP has in his campaign forays across the country been ruthless on issues of power-sharing and alliance-building arguing that the focus for the country is putting in place measures that will ensure the revival of the economy battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Ruto has slammed the door for any possible coalition with small political parties arguing that he will not be coerced into what he described as “tribal parties”.
Three of the DP Ruto’s allies – Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria of Chama Cha Kazi (CCK), former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri of The Party of Service (TPS) and Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) have all declared that they will not join UDA despite supporting Dr Ruto’s quest for the presidency.
Prof Kindiki admitted that the discussion concerning alliance with smaller parties is an important discourse for UDA and the party leadership will have to revisit after February if they have to survive the test of popularity.
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