Kenya:Voters lead silent revolt as they sweep out powerful politicians

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On 29 April 2017 at 04:41

The nomination season is officially coming to a close this weekend but the aftershocks of the silent revolt by voters are being felt across the country, from Kisumu to Kisauni.
In many counties, voters did not want their national leaders to guide them on who to elect.
They wanted to make that choice with no one forcing their hand, a break from the past when local aspirants perceived to be darlings of the establishment enjoyed a head start during nominations. Those times are now gone.
In (...)

The nomination season is officially coming to a close this weekend but the aftershocks of the silent revolt by voters are being felt across the country, from Kisumu to Kisauni.

In many counties, voters did not want their national leaders to guide them on who to elect.

They wanted to make that choice with no one forcing their hand, a break from the past when local aspirants perceived to be darlings of the establishment enjoyed a head start during nominations. Those times are now gone.

In some counties, such as Bomet and Nandi, voters picked virtual unknowns to represent them as Members of County Assemblies (MCAs).

Security guard wins ticket

In Kericho, a security guard won the Jubilee Party MCA ticket.

Mr Eric Bett beat a long list of opponents in the race for Kapchebor ward.

His opponents included the current MCA, Mr Joel Siele.

In neighbouring Bomet, Mr Zadock Kibet Kilel, a tractor driver beat opponents who included the incumbent, a former long-serving councillor.

This trend is a clear indictment of the appetite for allowances and other perks that MCAs have demonstrated.

Political consciousness

Only on Thursday this week, High Court judge Edward Muriithi ruled that MCAs can earn their salaries for the eight months they will not be working when their term in office will be cut prematurely in August.

Though the ruling may be good news for the more than 4,000 MCAs countrywide, it could also influence the choices that voters will make during the August 8 General Election.

Several leaders, until now perceived to be powerful and influential, were rejected by voters, heralding a new wave of political consciousness where voters are exerting their democratic right like never before.

Cheboi cast out

Tellingly, in areas where political parties handed victory to undeserving candidates, wananchi were quick to show their wrath and to demand justice.

In many of this instances, the parties have had to listen to the voices of the people.

Jubilee for instance, has said that no candidate will be issued with a winner’s certificate if his or her election is the subject of a dispute.

And in counties like Baringo, voters were simply demanding better services from the devolved government.

They showed their dissatisfaction by rejecting Governor Benjamin Cheboi, who was a shoo in in 2013.

In one polling station in Muserechi, Eldama Ravine Sub-County, Mr Cheboi did not secure any vote at all.

Overall, Mr Stanley Kiptis, his challenger, was declared winner after garnering 64,589 votes against Cheboi’s 21,388.

“Basically, his administration was marred with corruption. The nomination exercise was a referendum against him and his administration,” Mr Solomon Komen, a youth leader and political commentator, said.

Democracy

This year’s nominations have seen one of the highest electoral casualties by both incumbents — particularly governors and MCAs — as well as by aspirants considered to be pro-establishment or who were thought to be imposed on party leaders.

The new wave appears to draw from the worldwide trend — from the Philippines and the US, from France to the Gambia — where leaders considered as rank outsiders swept to victory in a rebuke to the establishment, which voters accuse of ignoring them.

Prof Nyaga Kindiki of Moi University attributed the wave to the coming of age of Kenya’s democracy.

“It shows that we are truly becoming a republic, a rule by the people. Kenyans are becoming acutely aware of their rights and power,” Prof Kindiki, who teaches international education and policy, said.

According to him, the “revolution” was weakening the elite’s stranglehold on politics.

Senator sang’s victory

In Nandi, former Cabinet ministers Henry Kosgey and Felix Koskei were trounced by Nandi Senator Stephen Sang who pulled a surprise in the battle for the governorship.

At the age of 30, Mr Sang is now in line to become one of the youngest governors in Kenya.

National Assembly Legal Affairs Chairman Samuel Chepkong’a, a close ally of the Deputy President, lost the Jubilee nomination for Ainabkoi constituency to a newcomer, Mr William Chepkut.

The Deputy President’s communication official, Mr Emmanuel Tallam, was also floored in the Nandi Hills contest.

Mr Tallam was considered a formidable challenger to area MP Alfred Keter, considered a rebel in Jubilee Party.

Mr Keter garnered 19,734. Mr Tallam only got 5, 620.

Uhuru kin

It is significant that close confidants of both President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga were not spared either, the name recognition of such candidates notwithstanding.

The resounding loss of the county’s Woman Rep, Ms Anne Nyokabi, a relative of President Kenyatta’s.

Ms Nyokabi garnered a mere 20,768 votes in her bid to capture JP ticket and defend her seat in August.

She lost to a newcomer, Ms Gathoni wa Muchomba, who got an overwhelming 374,768 votes, one of the highest for any candidate nationally.

Out of the 60 MCAs in the county, only three won their nomination race — meaning that 57 will lost out.

Similarly, of all the parliamentarians in Nyeri County, only Kieni MP Kanini Kega beat the odds of being rejected. His five counterparts were all defeated by greenhorn politicians.

Big shots lose

Mukurweini’s Kabando wa Kabando, Mathira’s Peter Weru, Tetu’s Ndung’u Gethenji, Nyeri Town’s Esther Murugi and Othaya’s Mary Wambui all lost their bid to retain their seats.

Similarly, Senator Mutahi Kagwe, who was aspiring to be the next governor, lost his bid to former Vision 2030 director Wahome Gakuru who won by a landslide.

Analysts in the county said his biggest undoing was his failure to intervene when the county fell into a crisis, which resulted in a stalemate between the ward representatives and Governor Nderitu Gachagua, who died last month.

Mr Gachagua’s successor, Mr Samuel Wamathai, lost primarily on account of his personality.

He was perceived to be reserved and lukewarm. “He did not give us the impression of a leader,” one voter, Mr Joseph Maina, said.

Populism

In Nyanza, Mr Odinga’s backyard, his cousin Jakoyo Midiwo — who is also the Deputy Minority Leader in the National Assembly — lost his bid to defend his Gem parliamentary seat.

So did Raila’s brother Dr Oburu Oginga. However, he was later controversially handed the ticket to run for the Bondo constituency seat. The move sparked protests voters.

One analyst said that Mr Odinga’s sister Ruth, the Deputy Governor of Kisumu, recoiled from running for the governorship after sensing resistance from voters.

Constitutional lawyer and political commentator Wachira Maina reads the arrival of the global wave of populism, which has swept through America and Europe for the nomination of such governor candidates as Mike Mbuvi Sonko of Nairobi and Ferdinand Waititu of Kiambu.

“Mr Sonko may not have swept the board with the landslide that most people predicted but his nomination as Jubilee candidate for governor of Nairobi and that of Mr Waititu, shows that the subalterns are revolting against the dominance of the middle classes as they have done in Europe and America,” Mr Maina argued.

Results disputed

One of the most surprising losses was that of Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua, who was trounced by former Nakuru Town MP Lee Kinyanjui.

Mr Mbugua, one of the most guarded personalities outside the presidency, having carried over some privileges from his former job as head of the Administration Police, had become inaccessible, thus alienating him from voters.

Although he had brought about order in Nakuru town by flushing out hawkers from the streets, making the town clean, secure and ideal for business, this did not stop voters from casting their lot with his challenger.

However, Mr Mbugua has protested the outcome, saying that some polling stations had higher turn-out that exceeded registered voters.

In Murang’a, Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, a close ally of the President, was rebuffed by voters despite a four-year long campaign to oust the incumbent, Mr Mwangi wa Iria.

However, he blamed his loss on irregularities, arguing that some election officials were compromised.

“I hereby reject the nomination results for Jubilee Party governorship in Murang’a. I will not file an appeal as I had already complained before the nominations,” he said at his Lavington home in Nairobi yesterday.

Ruto’s project

In Uasin Gishu, Mr Bundotich Zedekiah Kiprop Buzeki, who ran a loud and vigorous campaign, lost to incumbent Governor Jackson Mandago, because he was viewed as a project of people close to the Deputy President.

“Mr Buzeki has been meeting with some people from the office of the DP and strategising on how to kick me out,” Mr Mandago said a day to the cancelled Jubilee nominations of Friday last week.

This may well have turned the tables, coming as it did hot on the heels of the false start of the nomination, which some attributed to a scheme to handpick preferred candidates across the country.

However, Mr Buzeki refuted the claim.

“I am a man on my own. The attempt to link my candidature to DP’s office is mere propaganda,” he said.

It may have been a case of too little too late. The revolt has already taken its toll.

And another round could be awaiting leaders on August 8.

Baringo Governor Benjamin Cheboi votes at Shimoni in Eldama Ravine during Jubilee Party nominations on April 24, 2017. He lost the nomination to Mr Stanley Kiptis.

Source:Daily Nation


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