Politics

Is Ruto's political fortress as impregnable as it appears?

Is Ruto's political fortress as impregnable as it appears?
  • The DP’s comfortable position is buttressed by the fact that he has all the time in the world to focus on his campaign to succeed President Kenyatta and do so largely at the taxpayers’ expense.

  • Since the government is being coordinated centrally from the Interior and Government Coordination Ministry, the DP has time to host delegation after delegation at his Nairobi and rural homes, and to traverse the country wooing voters.

Deputy President William Ruto’s daring taunt to Raila Odinga and the Building Bridges Initiative brigade, which includes the DP’s boss President Uhuru Kenyatta, that the latter’s campaign for a referendum to amend the Constitution is a rudderless project that will run aground like the Punguza Mizigo one fronted by Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuro Aukot, exudes impressive confidence.

SABOTAGE GAME

And why not. He knows — or thinks he knows — that he is in a good place that can only be upset by an extraordinary turn of events.

The key lesson that he thinks former Prime Minister Odinga and his troops can learn from the failure of the Punguza Mizigo initiative must be that any political project can be captured by interests capable of funding sabotage. Interestingly, the Punguza Mizigo change initiative was sabotaged through efforts led largely by the pro-BBI lobby, with Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) from Nyanza and Mt Kenya region leading the rejection.

By inference, the message that the DP was delivering when he made his taunt on September 29 at a churches fundraiser in Vihiga is that the Raila team is not the only one that can play the sabotage game.

This is clearly the confidence of a consummate political operative who is fully aware that he has the political machinery to frustrate any Constitution change project. Whether the initiative is driven through a parliamentary initiative as envisaged in Article 256 of the Constitution, or through a popular (people’s) initiative as guided by Article 257, Dr Ruto’s political machinery can mount serious challenges.

WHIPPED SUPPORTERS

Through Parliament, after the Bill is introduced, it “shall not be called for second reading in either House within 90 days after the first reading of the Bill in that House” and it “shall have been passed by Parliament when each House of Parliament has passed the Bill, in both its second and third readings, by not less than two-thirds of all the members of that House”.

The current division in the Senate membership and in the National Assembly is such that neither the Kieleweke group that revolves around the Uhuru/Raila axis, nor the Tanga Tanga one aligned to the DP, can marshal the two-thirds required to pass the Bill. His influence was well demonstrated recently when he whipped his supporters to push through a Bill governing the recruitment of commissioners to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

ENDLESS TOILING

Those opposed to the Bill (mainly pro-Raila MPs), and wanted the current commissioners thrown out, were defeated 69 to 56 by those seen to support the Deputy President.

The option of a referendum through the popular vote will be no stroll in the glades either for its proponents. In the seven and a-half years that he has been DP, Dr Ruto has traversed this country more times than any other politician, and spent stupendous amounts of money on “development projects” a euphemism for buying support.

To many thousands of Kenyans whose livelihoods are defined by endless toiling and moiling, and a permanent deficit of life’s essentials (healthcare, school fees and food), this man bearing goodies and a persuasive tongue is a welcome option.

He has generated sufficient firepower that can defeat the required threshold to endorse a referendum, which is: that 20 per cent registered voters in at least half the counties come out to vote, and a simple majority of those vote in favour.

TAXPAYERS' EXPENSE

The DP’s comfortable position is buttressed by the fact that he has all the time in the world to focus on his campaign to succeed President Kenyatta and do so largely at the taxpayers’ expense.

Since the government is being coordinated centrally from the Interior and Government Coordination Ministry, the DP has time to host delegation after delegation at his Nairobi and rural homes, and to traverse the country wooing voters.

The Opposition has been punctured with the ‘handshake’ and rapprochement between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, and claims by allies that the former Prime Minister will vie again have been unconvincing.

RAPIDLY WANING

Although it could be foolish to completely discount the possibility of a Raila candidacy in 2022, time is rapidly waning.

The fractured Jubilee, on its part, has been coy to reveal its alternative candidate in the face of the very obvious fallout between the President and his deputy.

Politically, all the ducks appear to be aligned rather nicely for Dr Ruto and those intending to stop him must stage a non-political counter-attack. Counter-attacks are tactics the State is a master at. But even it does not have much time.

Tom Mshindi is the former editor-in-chief of the Nation Group and is now consulting.