Are leaders defying defection deadline?
Questions linger over defections by politicians days after the deadline for party hopping with concern that they could be breaking the law.
The Registrar of Political Parties set March 26 as the last day for any election candidates to switch parties but in the past one week, a number of politicians have defected citing lack of democracy in their previous parties.
Chama Cha Kazi leader Moses Kuria has claimed the Registrar Anne Nderitu was under pressure to secretly allow more politicians to defect, pointing an accusing finger at one of the leading parties.
Nderitu has denied the claims.
The latest to move was Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui who announced on Friday he will defend his seat on Jubilee Party ticket after abandoning his Ubuntu People’s Forum (UBF).
Other prominent politicians who announced their defection after the deadline are former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo and former Police Spokesman Charles Owino who joined the United Democratic Movement.
They had been associating with the Orange Democratic Movement led by Raila Odinga as they sought to be the next Siaya governor but quit claiming there were plans to force them to drop their candidature in favour of Senator James Orengo.
The Nakuru Governor was elected on a Jubilee ticket in 2017 but last year he moved to Ubuntu party following fears the ruling party was losing ground nationally after the fallout between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
The President has since injected some life into the ruling outfit months to the August 9 election attracting high-profile aspirants who had earlier left for other parties.
The Head of State has focused on clawing back the gains by his deputy and his party, the United Democratic Alliance, in Jubilee strongholds with the target being senior figures in the region who had not adopted extreme positions on the status of his party.
Governor Kinyanjui, his Laikipia counterpart Ndiritu Muriithi, Kirinyaga Woman Rep Wangui Ngirici have been Jubilee’s targets.
The party honchos see them as having the clout to improve the party’s fortunes in Mt Kenya.
Ndiritu, who was elected as an independent candidate in 2017, has been picked to head Raila’s campaign secretariat and plans to defend his seat on a Party of National Unity ticket.
Kinyanjui said he made the decision to defend his seat on Jubilee ticket to ensure Azimio, led by the President and Raila, consolidated support in the vote-rich county that boasts of over one million votes.
“This decision has been made in full consultation with top leadership and members of the Ubuntu Peoples Forum-UPF party. In the meantime, UPF party will field and support its candidates in respective positions in line with its mandate,” said the governor who revealed his party will still field candidates for various seats in the region.
The governor will be presented with a direct ticket and unveiled as Jubilee’s flag bearer in the county. He will face off with rival Senator Susan Kihika of UDA.
Top Jubilee leaders are said to have been working round the clock to push those who defected to fringe parties to go “back home”.
Other leaders who went back before the deadline were MPs John Walukhe (Sirisia), David Kiaraho (Ol Kalou), former MPs Esther Gathogo (Ruiru), Ndung’u Gethenji (Tetu) among others.
Registrar Nderitu played down claims the politicians were switching parties saying those who announced their defection after March 26 had quietly moved before the deadline.
“Most of them moved before the deadline. Maybe they have been waiting for a time they feel right to announce but they have not broken any law,” said Nderitu.
She confirmed that Kinyanjui had moved long before saying he had not broken any law.
“The governor moved before. It is only he did not announce then,” she told People Daily.
She also confirmed that no one had been added to the lists presented to her office after the stipulated date saying they had moved to the next stage of verification of names before transmitting them to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission by April 9.
“We are now cleaning the registers and when we see anything that needs clarification we invite parties for verification,” she said.
Nderitu also said the courts had declined to issue orders to extend the deadline.
Parties are also expected to submit coalition agreements by April 9.