Opinion polls shed negative tag to shape party primaries
Opinion polls are shaping this year’s nominations as parties use them to identify the most popular candidates and issue them with tickets in a bid to avoid expensive and often chaotic primaries.
In a noticeable deviation from the norm, where aspirants are subjected to secret voting, the leading parties are paying attention to opinion polls and using them to select the most popular candidates.
The Orange Democratic Movement confirmed it had sponsored a number of polls to help in determining whom to give tickets, although the party said it was yet to consider them.
The outfit is said to be benefitting from State-sponsored opinion polls that have informed its recent decisions to hand direct nominations to certain aspirants.
The party’s National Elections Board chairperson Catherine Mumma confirmed they had sponsored several polls but said they were yet to be called upon to make decisions on party tickets.
“We have not sat down to look at them but we will do so. When we do, we will let everyone know,” she said on Tuesday.
She was responding to accusations directed at the party by those who felt cheated when it offered direct nomination certificates to several aspirants last weekend.
This week, claims have been rife that the party — a key member of Azimio la Umoja alliance led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga — would pick its candidates through direct nominations, aided by opinion polls.
Mumma dismissed these claims, saying the party would employ every available means, as provided for by its constitution and the law, to determine who will carry its flag for various seats.
Jubilee has also been issuing direct tickets to candidates considered more popular than others, while Kanu, Wiper, Amani National Congress and Ford Kenya have indicated readiness to explore opinion polls to avoid potentially destructive primaries.
The President’s party has already given tickets to aspirants mostly from Mt Kenya region, based on their popularity index in opinion polls.
Former Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau was handed a nomination certificate to vie for Murang’a governorship while former Ruiru lawmaker Esther Gathogo got one to garner for the seat she lost in 2017. Former Tetu MP Ndung’u Gethenji was also a beneficiary. Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja was also given the ticket to defend his seat after decamping from Wiper.
Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance is, however, getting ready for the primaries, hoping to emerge unscathed. The DP has promised to make it a personal quest to ensure free and fair polls. The party’s national elections board chairman, Anthony Mwaura, said the nominations will be held on April 14 across all wards, constituencies and counties.
“The party reiterates its commitment to render free, fair, verifiable and democratic primaries,” he said. The maiden nominations will test the outfit’s strength and resilience. Earlier, the party said it had attracted over 5,500 aspirants to battle it out in the nominations.
Leading outfits have until April 22 to conclude their primaries. It has emerged that a good number of them are relying on internal polls to select their candidates.
Party insiders say the beneficiaries were picked based on their scorecards in internal, party-sponsored polls. This also helps avoid the shaky and uncertain universal suffrage path, which is usually a free-for-all. Talk is also rife that key figures could be given direct tickets to spare them rigorous nominations.
Trends and Insights for Africa (Tifa) chief executive officer Margaret Ireri said use of these polls had risen over time, as had appreciation of scientific data in politics. “It’s good to see parties embracing data to make key decisions. There has been an increase in the number of politicians approaching us to conduct polls for them,” she told ‘People Daily’. Tifa is one of the leading pollsters in Kenya.
Data at work
Ireri said they worked with one of the big parties in the 2017 elections and provided them with data that informed their decisions on nominations.
“We were often invited to party meetings with the aspirants to explain to them what we had found,” she explained.
Currently, they are working directly with aspirants who are keen to know their ratings with voters before deciding whether to vie. The polls also indicate the most popular party in a given region.
“We have been working with aspirants for governor and MP positions on these issues. Many governor aspirants also want to know the popular MCA hopefuls to work with,” she said.
However, these polls have a downside — mainly authenticity and acceptability by aspirants. Already, some contestants affiliated to ODM have decamped after issuance of direct tickets to their competitors.
In Saiya, governor aspirants are leaving the party owing to fears that Senator James Orengo could be handed the ticket. Former Police Spokesman Charles Owino defected to United Democratic Movement and has joined hands with ex-Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo to face off with Orengo.