BY MOSES KURIA
On September 20th, 2010, a group of committed and concerned members of the Party of National Unity, including myself, initiated an internal debate on the future of our party. At that time, we had just come from bruising by-elections in Juja, Makadara and Starehe whereby our performance was anything but satisfactory.
Since that date, PNU has really risen from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix. Two of the members who were elected on a NARC-Kenya ticket on that day have come back to the fold of the mainstream PNU, effectively re-asserting NARC-Kenya’s role as a founder and a life-member of the PNU Coalition.
Since those three by-elections, there have been others in Matuga, Wajir South and Kirinyaga Central. Out of these six by-elections, PNU Coalition-including Juja and Makadara-have won in five constituencies and ODM has won in 1.
That means that ODM has lost in 83.3 percent of all parliamentary by-elections held in the Republic of Kenya since September 20th, 2011. As a member of the PNU, I am proud of this deafening victory. As a democrat who participated in the crusade for multi-partyism in Kenya, I am deeply concerned that the now assured extinction of the Orange Democratic Movement will weaken the pluralist gains we have made in our political system since 1991. But that is a story for another day.
It is important to note that the pain and anguish that we went through last year have been used as a bouncing pad for political advantage not adversity. The electoral debacle has been used by all of us as leaders and members of the party to interrogate ourselves on where the rains started beating us.
Principally, all of us have realised that there is neither substitute for, nor escape from internal democracy if we are to build a strong and effective electoral machine that will ensure we win the 2012 General Elections and continue driving this country towards the realisation of Vision 2030.
In Kirinyaga Central the party advertised in the mass media inviting those interested in the nominations to apply. The only applicant, Hon Gachoki Gitari went on to win the seat against the more experienced former MP, Daniel Karaba. The victory in Kirinyaga Central was remarkable in two aspects.
Firstly, the party experimented on an open democracy model through advertisement in the media. Secondly, all the leading anchors of the PNU Coalition, Kalonzo Musyoka, George Saitoti, Uhuru Kenyatta and Eugene Wamalwa participated actively in Gitari’s campaign unlike in the September by-elections where the policy was every man for himself, and defeat for us all.
The same unity of purpose and common resolve was exhibited in Matuga and Wajir South by-elections.
If these by-elections were important milestones for the resurgent PNU, the nominations for the Kamukunji by-elections herald the maturity phase in PNU’s life-cycle. For the first time a coalition of more than 18 constituent parties found the long elusive formula for executing internal democracy. The Electoral College system that has been used effectively in other mature democracies such as the USA was tested with resounding success. As a result, delegates from different parties had to make a decision on which candidate was best positioned to carry the flag, aspirations and ideology of the PNU Alliance in the forthcoming by-elections, their party affiliation notwithstanding. More importantly, ethnicity, the curse of Kenyan politics was consigned to the dustbin. In a constituency with large populations of the Kikuyu, Luo, Kamba and Luhyas in that order, it did not matter that the victorious Yussuf Hassan is from the minority Somali community. By that single development, the first building block of the de-ethnicization of the Kenyan political system was laid.
Moving forward, the by-election victories and the Kamukunji by-elections have put the resurgent and maturing PNU Alliance in a pole position as we approach the General Election next year. The message to the party faithful is that come next year, one can rely on the party structures and democratic systems to deliver free and fair nominations for ward representatives, Women parliamentary representatives, MP’s, governors, senators and President. With the new formula for internal democracy within the alliance, buttressed by the Political Parties Act and the new constitution, the culture of candidates defecting to other parties after losing in the nominations has been buried in the graveyard of history.
The dividends for this new system will accrue to all party members. For candidates who lose in the nominations, they can rest assured that the party will incorporate them in campaigning for the victorious candidates from ward representatives to the Presidential candidate. For the winning candidates, after the nominations their campaigns will be taken over and largely owned by the party. It may even turn out that when one wins the nominations in our stronghold areas, they may be assigned duties to campaign for the Presidential candidate in other areas as their victory in their home seats will be fait accompli.
The developing democratic processes within the PNU Alliance can only be good for the democratization of the country. I do hope that the civil society elements who are in the business of promoting democracy in Kenya will note this progress with appreciation, and that they will relay the same to their foreign masters. On our part, we are willing to work with the Civil Society and offer them a boot camp in democracy.
(The author is the spokesman of the Party of National Unity. The views expressed herein are his own)