Freeze on party-hopping negatively affects Uhuru’s 2017 vote

Jubilee and CORD MPs have passed a Bill that will stop aspirants from changing parties should they lose nomination. This law is meant to instil party discipline. However it will negatively affect President Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential vote mobilisation in 2017.

The strongest candidates in Jubilee strongholds will run for the JP nomination. In Nyeri for instance I expect at least four of us to compete for the ticket. I have no doubt that I will beat the other three candidates and because this Bill means they cannot then run against me under any another pro-Jubilee ticket at the ballot, I am inclined to support it. This is the main reason the incumbents supported it. Most stand a better chance of getting their party nomination across the board than winning an election at the ballot.

However the President’s team should be more interested in the fact that what the Bill does is essentially force the second, third and fourth most popular candidates in Jubilee strongholds, to stop active grass-root campaigns. Even if they all accept the nomination results and commit to support the winning candidate they will disband their campaigns and voter mobilisation networks.

Some of their key supporters will also not bother turning up at the main election, especially close friends and relatives who travelled far to register in the respective constituencies in a bid to support these candidates.

In addition once you reduce my key competition and make me the sole Nyeri Jubilee MP candidate I do not need to invest as much resources into my campaign as I would have had to, were my main rivals to still go to the ballot through some other party. I therefore do not need to mobilise voters 40,000 voters to win; 30,000 are good enough. The Nyeri scenario will be repeated in most Jubilee strongholds.

Unfortunately for Uhuru the 10,000 votes that will not bother coming out to vote in 2017, either because their preferred candidate was knocked out at nomination level or because I never bothered to aggressively get them out to vote on the elections day (as I already had enough votes for my local seat) are his natural votes. Consider for example the many thousands of Waititu voters who have moved their votes to Kiambu.

Will they still travel there to vote were Waititu to lose the nomination to Kabogo and not make it to the final ballot?

This scenario should worry Uhuru.

In 2013 in Siaya, Kisumu and Migori counties, 23,000, 37,000 and 22,000 voters respectively did not bother to come out and vote, despite having registered as voters a mere three months earlier. Most if not all of these 82,000 voters would have voted for Raila, had they turned up.

The key reason that they did not turn up was because their preferred candidates were not on the ballot. These did not affect the local ODM candidate (in most cases), but Raila lost 70,000 votes from his key strongholds because of it.

Raila has learnt his lesson.

The party-hopping Bill does not affect his coalition. In 2017 he will therefore have multiple parties competing at ward, constituency and county levels. It will make for messy local elections but all these parties will mop up all the votes their candidates mobilize, for Raila at national level. This will not be the case in Jubilee strongholds.

Uhuru’s campaign team needs to look closely at this Bill. In 2013 he became President in the first round because he crossed the 50 percent plus one threshold. He had TNA, DP, PNU, Narc, URP, etc, mopping up votes for him but he still only made it across with 8,000 votes. If we want a 1st round win again Uhuru cannot afford to lose even one of his natural votes just because a voter did not see the need to get out and vote.

(Wambugu is a political commentator)

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