Litmus test for William Ruto's UDA in party polls

Litmus test for William Ruto's UDA in party polls

Deputy President William Ruto during a meeting with politicians allied to United Democratic Alliance at his Karen residence on August 5, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) is set for its biggest test yet as it plans for grassroots elections next month.

The party is under pressure to ensure popular aspirants prevail without being seen as favouring elected leaders who have stuck with Dr Ruto despite his woes in the Jubilee administration.

There are camps across the country, such as the power struggle in Nakuru between factions allied to Senator Susan Kihika and Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri.

Another challenge is guarding against infiltration by rival parties that use moles to either spy or disrupt grassroots elections.

Analysts say the fate of the nascent party depends on the manner in which the polls are conducted as a bungled exercise could trigger a fallout, coming after recent protests over the appointment of coordinators that saw elected leaders blamed for shortchanging other aspirants.

Lock out rivals

The lawmakers were accused of planting their proxies in the positions to lock out their rivals as part of strategy to ensure they secure nomination tickets.

“Elections are there next month. What we are trying to work out is how they are going to be conducted amid the pandemic,” UDA chairman Johnson Muthama told the Nation.

The party is yet to decide whether leaders of polling stations should be picked through consensus or voting. The other seats will require voting to select delegates — the important cogs in a party and who are the ultimate decision makers in the National Delegates Convention .

“If people can agree in their polling stations, from there, it will be delegates electing other leaders. Once we manage the polling station issue, the rest will be easy,” Mr Muthama said, adding that the party secretariat will preside over the elections.

“We don’t want anybody to appoint himself as an acting leader in any position. This means people in the counties, sub-counties and wards should not appoint themselves. We want the party to be managed by those elected by members,” Mr Muthama said.

UDA’s success

The polls are an important precursor to the nominations as it is those elected that will be integral in the primaries. Parties are expected to submit a membership list to the electoral commission in April in preparation for the primaries. UDA secretary-general Veronica Maina said preparations for the polls are in top gear.

“We are still preparing and we will see how the date will fit with our processes and consider issues around it,” she said. Aspirants have warned against attempts to favour MPs. “We are all working hard to win. We demand fairness,” Uasin Gishu gubernatorial hopeful Jonathan Bii said.

Mr Antipas Tirop, a gubernatorial hopeful in Nandi County, said UDA’s success will be determined by how it conducts the polls.

Political analysts say grassroots polls could spell doom for parties if they are poorly done.

“Political parties don’t like  holding elections due to fear of infiltration by rivals. They also fear disruptions by goons sponsored by opponents with various political ends in mind,” argued political analyst Javas Bigambo.