December 13th 2017

Top Stories / National

Climax of democratic showcase: State Parties' Tribunal revokes Cyprian Awiti's nomination

Despite such remarkable progress, the primaries were marked by violence in over ten counties. A number of reported disputes were not well resolved, resulting in an unprecedented number of aspirants defecting from their parties to run as independent candidates.

By Julliet Mwihakijmwihaki@kenyafreepress.comWednesday, 03 May 2017 21:25 EAT

Governor Awiti.

The government-led Political Parties Disputes Tribunal has overturned the decision by ODM National Elections Board to award the Homa Bay governorship nomination ticket to the incumbent Cyprian Awiti. Mr Awiti's controversial nomination had also been reversed by the ODM National Appeals Tribunal, which observed that the governor had lost the nomination to his challenger Oyugi Magwanga.

The Homa Bay ruling happened as the Jubilee Party also reversed its earlier decision to award the Starehe parliamentary nomination to incumbent Maina Kamanda, who had lost in the vote to musician Charles Kanyi (Jaguar). Mr Kanyi's fortune was believed to have been influenced by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

These two examples signify both the mess and promise of the conduct of party primaries in Kenya. These primaries were markedly more organised and transparent than the ones in 2013 and in many ways provided a showcase of Kenyan democracy, which though it remains a work in progress is much more advanced than in many African countries. 

While they were well conducted in many instances, the primaries were also marked by blatant rigging or doctoring of results as examples above illustrate. But even the existence of dispute resolution mechanisms, internally and at the state-led body, reflects the recognition of a set of principles the country should strive to nurture.

In some areas, when irregularities were seen to be fundamental, the entire exercise had to be repeated. The Jubilee Party cancelled all its primaries nationwide on the first day due to the large turnout of people amid less ballot papers. The ODM Appeals Tribunal too ordered repeat elections in a few constituencies but these weren't conducted by the NEB as advised.

Overall, over 10 governors lost the popular vote or defected to fringe parties in order to avoid embarrassment, as did scores of senators and MPs. In Nyeri and Nakuru counties, voters brought in new faces, marking nothing but a fresh start with over 90 percent of elected leaders being shown the door in the dominant Jubilee primaries.

Despite such remarkable progress, the primaries were also marked by violence in over ten counties. A number of reported disputes were not well resolved, resulting in an unprecedented number of aspirants defecting from their parties to run as independent candidates.

This is in part because the party dispute tribunals were not very effective. Jubilee's tribunal led by lawyer Faith Waigwa emerged as perhaps the most inept. For a large party, it was poorly staffed, and the appeal process maybe should have been decentralized.

In Nairobi, they operated from the party headquarters, creating room for collusion with the same party officials who had messed the nominations. While as an organ of the party the tribunal cannot be fully independent, there should be at least a theoretical firewall between the two sides, given that corruption is the big cause of mess in the nominations.

The Jubilee appeal board never began dealing with appeals until very late when the process had been marked by chaos, with losing aspirants storming the party head office or, in the case of Mr Kanyi, lamenting with tears at their abandonment by a political process they had invested much faith in.

Where the tribunal heard cases comprehensively, it equivocated on the malpractices. A case in point is Starehe constituency where Mr Kanyi petitioned against Kamanda's alleged rigging. The board asked the petitioner and Kamanda to iron out their differences. There was no way an appellant was going to meet a 'rigger', but Kamanda enjoyed the miscarriage of justice, welcoming Jaguar to come and meet him. "He is like my son," the ageing MP remarked condescendingly.

Embarrassed by the social media furore indicating that Jaguar had suffered despite the promise he had given him a day earlier that his grievance would be resolved justly, President Kenyatta is said to have directed the Jubilee Party officials to withdraw Kamanda's nomination and hand over the ticket to Jaguar.

On the opposition side, the ODM appeals board appeared better organised but its results, though just in many instances, were ignored by the party elections board, making it look like a paper tiger. The board had recommended that Mr Awiti's nomination be removed but the election board went ahead and issued the governor the ticket.

The board also operated under the fear of violence. Over the weekend, its officials were attacked by suspected goons accompanying to rival aspirant groups. Its chairman had to call off sittings since the security of its members couldn't be guaranteed.

In addition, the board had another competing organ in a committee led by politicians including Kitutu Masaba Member of Parliament Timothy Bosire and his Wundanyi counterpart Thomas Mwadeghu. Billed as a consensus-building team, the committee's work had no force of law.

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