Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Saturday, 02 Sep 2017 16:32 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto called Jubilee Party leaders to an unusual meeting at State House this afternoon to lay a grand plan for winning the fresh presidential election ordered by the Supreme Court "by all means possible".
The president, who condemned the judiciary in strong words that were widely censured by judicial staff association, civil society activists and other leaders, also announced a campaign programme that will take him to virtually every corner of the country ahead of the new election, an apparent move to forewarn his party ranks that there was no time to waste before the new poll whose date is yet to be announced.
"Are you prepared to help me reach your areas?" the president posed during his address to the party governors and members of the county assemblies elected around the country. The team answered in the affirmative, before Uhuru excused himself from the meeting to allow intimate discussions led by Elgeyo Marakwet senator Kipchumba and Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri.
In a sign that the president was putting the state machinery at his disposal for the election, several senior government officials took part in the meeting, and Mr Kiunjuri was reported by a source to have assured the politicians that the government would do everything in its power to ensure Uhuru wins. "Don't fear anything, we will be with you," the minister said, according to an MCA who participated in the meeting where journalists were not allowed in.
The opposition had in its suit against Uhuru's nullified election complained about the use of cabinet secretaries and other public officers as campaigners for the Jubilee Party, holding that the public officers' role intimidated voters and swayed those with limited understanding about the differences between government and political party roles to vote for the president.
According to participants at the meeting, Jubilee's first plan is to support the beleaguered officials of the electoral commission, IEBC, who have been implicated by NASA in a plot to rig the nullified election. To advance their support for IEBC staff, the president and his deputy have asked the commission to set the date of the new election, ignoring concerns by the opposition coalition that the officials deliberately and illegally rigged the nullified election.
In a script that began immediately after the Supreme Court ruling yesterday, the two leaders said the opposition coalition was the driver of changes to the electoral commission in 2016 and would not be allowed to campaign against the current officials, the Supreme Court ruling notwithstanding.
“We are now telling the IEBC to put up a new timetable for election and we will again win with majority, this time round not with 54 per cent but with over 70 per cent,” Ruto said at Burma Market in Nairobi last evening, an impromptu rally they had organised in an attempt to show their readiness for new elections.
At today's meeting, Uhuru ruled out any cooperation with the opposition in reforming the IEBC. Our source at the meeting also informed us that the leaders want IEBC to arrange the election within the shortest time possible, even within the month of September so long as ballot materials can be procured.
Among other technical arguments, Jubilee will demand that candidates and electoral officials who participated in the nullified election go into the new one as a unit, since this will be a repeat poll. They also want the clerks and presiding officers who worked on August 8 contracted under the same terms as before. The meeting was informed that IEBC officials would meet early next week to set the new election date.
A top Jubilee leader, Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale, has categorically stated the party's position, holding that Jubilee will not support the removal of any single officer from IEBC, even a junior one. "The Supreme Court said a fresh election should be held within sixty day days. It did not say that people should go home. No IEBC officer will go home," Duale said.
Jubilee's position diverges from that of IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati who, concscious of the commission's credibility crisis, has acceded to the court's finding that the commission's conduct of the election was not credible. In widely reported remarks in response to the Supreme Court ruling, Chebukati has proposed that the secretariat staff could be fired and prosecuted and the commissioners shielded from responsibility.
The differences between the IEBC chairman and his Jubilee allies who have defended the commission against NASA accusation for months will play out in the coming week as both sides draw their respective plans for the new election.
While three NASA supporters have filed a High Court case to have all IEBC officials who presided over the election to leave office, the coalition has not yet released a roadmap of how it wants changes effected at the commission, since the removal of commissioners would take much longer than the two-month timeline allowed by the constitution for a repeat poll.