Jubilee merger the best idea for good governance in Kenya
When multi-party politics was introduced in the country in 1992, Kenyans were delighted, especially since they were moving from a dictatorial one-party system that had reigned since independence. Many parties started sprouting and politicians made it a normal habit jumping from one political outfit to the next every election year. And more witty politicians took advantage of the system to start a myriad of outfits and milk their fortunes from party hoppers.
Jubilee tried to reverse the gains in the just concluded General Election and many people were not happy. When the Jubilee coalition announced that it was collapsing all its affiliate parties into a single outfit, there was an uproar from both political divides. The Opposition claimed Jubilee was reversing the gains achieved in the fight for multi-party democracy and taking the country back to the dark era of KANU, chama cha baba na mama.
There was even a tougher war within Jubilee itself, with accusations and counter-accusations of members rocking the boat from within. Some people even bolted out to other parties, with Onyango Oloo, the secretary general of one of the major shareholders of the coalition, The National Alliance (TNA) moving to the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), with claims that the Jubilee merger did not serve the interests of TNA. Others like former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto decided to form their own parties and flatly refused to merge into the omnibus. Still, people like then Meru Governor Peter Munya refused to budge and he decided to run his Party of National Unity (PNU) separately and independently.
While the opponents of the merger saw it as a grave threat to their political careers since it would make competition stiffer, those for the merger and their supporters saw it as the best opportunity to beat ODM, which was the majority party in Parliament then, and give President Uhuru Kenyatta a strong base from which to build his re-election agenda.
Even with all the intrigues, the merger eventually happened and about 13 parties announced they were dissolving their parties to form one political giant. The infighting that followed made Jubilee opponents celebrate that it had killed itself and the National Super Alliance (NASA) affiliate parties would have a field day in most parts of the country in the General Election. Yes, some fringe parties such as Maendeleo Chap Chap and Governor Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) made money when political bigwigs defected to them, but that was just the end of the celebration.
Today, to the chagrin of the doomsayers, the Jubilee Party and parties friendly to it have an almost super majority in both Houses of parliament. In the National Assembly, Jubilee party alone has 164 MPs, while NASA affiliates combined have 118. In the Senate, JP has 25 members against NASA’s 18. And out of the 47 counties, Jubilee Party alone has 25 governors against 17 for NASA affiliated parties.
After the primaries, the Jubilee nominees had a strong backing of State House as expected and the party threw its weight behind single candidates in various political areas, while NASA affiliates were left wrangling among themselves for same seats. The Jubilee merger killed this sibling rivalry that was inherent in NASA won even the seats that were traditionally known to belong to the Opposition. A case in point is Western region, a perceived NASA stronghold, where Jubilee won eight seats. That was unprecedented.
It is my hope that the Jubilee Party members in and out of Parliament will eventually prove that what Kenya needs is just a few parties to strengthen its democracy. In advanced democracies, there are only a few parties and the electorate. In the US, for example, you are either born a Republican or Democrat and in the United Kingdom, there are only about six political parties, but the most popular ones are the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. Closer home, in South Africa, the African National National Congress (ANC) is the only party most people know. This is not to say that Kenya should drive back to the one party system as that would easily breed anarchy, but we surely do not need the many political outfits, some of which we don’t even know beyond the ballot paper.
In the meantime, let Jubilee Party enjoy the fruit of their brilliant idea that is the majority in parliament. However, we must caution them against any misguided temptations to use the tyranny of numbers against the will of Kenyans. Instead, they should use it to build a great country.
By Benjamin Washiali
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