Makodingo: Coalition parties' options for fielding candidates – The Star, Kenya

• Even leaders of briefcase parties rake in millions of shillings in nomination fees every election year.
• Over fifteen political parties from all regions of Kenya have aligned themselves with Azimio
With the 2022 General Elections less than six months away, one of the biggest headaches political parties entering into coalitions are facing is how to structure their coalitions with respect to the fielding of candidates.
With a lot of smaller parties curving regions and even counties for themselves, this issue could be a significant source of friction for coalitions, especially Raila Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja.
This matter is further complicated by the fact that nominations fees in an election year constitute a major (and for some the only) source of funds for political parties as thousands of candidates scramble for the few slots available.
Indeed, even leaders of briefcase parties rake in millions of shillings in nomination fees every election year.
It is no secret that Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta are keen to set up a big tent coalition where all the like-minded political parties aligned to the Handshake will come together under one roof to support Raila’s candidacy.
So far, over fifteen political parties from all regions of Kenya have aligned themselves with Azimio La Umoja that is supporting Raila’s bid.
However, the elephant in the room still remains how (or even whether) all these entities will field candidates for the General Elections.
I see four possible options.
The first scenario is to go the 2002 National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) way when ALL the political parties supporting Mwai Kibaki agreed to field joint candidates under the NARC umbrella.
In this set-up, all parties supporting Raila Odinga would submit to joint nominations and field candidates under the Azimio La Umoja banner.
This would be the simplest and most straightforward option because it presents few headaches to the Presidential Candidate and makes six-piece voting easy to drum support for.
The problem with this option is that a lot of the parties under Azimio La Umoja including ODM and President Kenyatta’s Jubilee would want to keep their identities and have their own candidates even as they support Raila’s candidacy.
The second option is to go the Kibaki way for his second term in 2007.
Whereas the President ran on a Party of National Unity ticket, affiliate parties were allowed to field their own candidates.
In this case, Raila Odinga would run as an Azimio La Umoja Candidate but allow all the other affiliate parties to field their own candidates. This is the expectation of a lot of the parties coming into the Azimio La Umoja tent, including both ODM and Jubilee.
For Raila Odinga, this could be a very problematic arrangement.
Like Kibaki in 2007-2013, he is likely to end up with a parliament where ODM may not even be the biggest party in terms of MPs.
He could therefore end up with a presidency beholden to interests from other powerful political party leaders that would make it hard to govern when disagreements occur.
It will also present a challenge should he want to make bold decisions around issues like the economy and war on graft which may not necessarily be popular with certain party leaders.
Another complication would be sibling rivalry.
If all the constituent parties in Azimio La Umoja field candidates particularly in battleground cosmopolitan areas like Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa and Kakamega, they may give United Democratic Alliance (UDA) the space to pitia katikati yao as the Azimio parties split their votes
This scenario would definitely make it impossible for him to govern without another handshake with Ruto if UDA gets the majority in either or both houses.
The third option is zoning.
An assessment would need to be made to determine and classify counties into three categories – Safe, Battleground and Opposition strongholds.
In the Safe regions like Luo Nyanza, all Azimio affiliates would be allowed to field candidates as there is no risk of losing to UDA or its affiliates.
The biggest advantage of this option is that it would allow for healthy competition among friendly parties that in itself could contribute to significantly higher voter turn-out figures as parties and candidates outdo each other in getting out the vote.
In battleground counties like Nairobi, all the constituent parties will need to agree to joint nominations and field single candidates in Countywide seats (Governor, Senator and County Woman Representative).
This would be the best strategy for battleground Counties as it will give Azimio La Umoja candidates the space to battle the “hustler” candidates without having to fend off attacks from friendly parties as well and end up giving UDA and its affiliates the upper hand.
And finally, in UDA strongholds just like in the Safe Counties, all Azimio affiliates will be allowed to field candidates.
This would make it easy to mobilize the fewer Raila Odinga votes available but more importantly, provide the necessary infrastructure to stop rigging of elections in those areas.
The fourth option would be a hybrid system for County and National candidates.
In this option, Azimio affiliate parties would be allowed to field Gubernatorial and County Assembly candidates but hold joint nominations under Azimio La Umoja for Parliamentary seats.
For example, Ngilu’s NARC will only field candidates for Governor and County Assembly in Ukambani but leave Parliamentary contests to joint Azimio nominations.
This option has two major advantages: It allows the Governors to put together a governing majority in their County Assemblies where their parties are strong and avoid some of the bitter fights we have witnessed between Governors and MCAs over the last decade.
In that context Jubilee Governors would have Jubilee-majority County Assemblies; ODM Governors would have ODM-majority Assemblies and so forth.
But more importantly for Mr Odinga, it allows him to avoid local county politics and still get an Azimio majority in Parliament that he would need to govern without having to kowtow to individual party interests that may bog him down in endless negotiations with party leaders post-election.
Whichever option Azimio La Umoja and Kenya Kwanza Alliance go for, political players will be watching as we head towards the nominations deadline in under two months.
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