Major parties in a quandary: Narc

In spite of the rising political temperatures and the shaping of the battle lines between the protagonists, all the major political parties in both the opposition and the government would be caught unawares if a snap election were called today. In fact a spot check indicates that with only 10 months remaining to the elections, most of the parties are still bedeviled by internal wrangles, some of which have persisted for the last five years. Here is a sneak preview:

National Rainbow Coalition (Narc)

By the time we were going to press, Narc, or, what remains of the party on which Kibaki rode to power, was still trying to put together the different constituent parties that had come together in 2002 to form the coalition.

In the brainstorming meeting held on Wednesday at the exclusive La Mada Hotel in Karura Forest, delegates from the constituent parties, DP, NPK and Ford Kenya, were still trying to sort out differences between the constituent parties.

Alongside the three main coalition partners in the meeting, there were 10 other small parties represented in the La Mada meeting that had been organized for the ruling coalition by the Centre for Multi-party Democracy (CMD). One of the issues the party was struggling to sort out was whether Kibaki would be the party’s presidential candidate.

According to Charity Ngilu, who is registered as the party chairman, the party will definitely have a presidential candidate but it was not automatic that the party’s candidate would be Kibaki. On the other hand, DP has made it clear that its presidential candidate is Kibaki. In any case, it would be na├»ve to imagine that DP, whose registered chairman is Kibaki, will support any other candidate part from the president.

As for Ford Kenya, the party seems to have one leg in the ruling coalition and the other outside. Dr Noah Wekesa, Ford Kenya director of elections, and Moses Wetangula have both stated that the party will support Kibaki for a second term.

Speaking on the sidelines of the La Mada meeting, Wetangula said that he was sure that Kibaki was going to run on a Narc ticket. “I have personally asked him (Kibaki),” Wetangula said “and he has told me categorically that he was not elected on a Narc-Kenya ticket.” But Musikari Kombo, the Ford Kenya chairman, has made it public he will be a presidential candidate.

Apart from the presidential candidate, the party was yet to agree on the position of the secretary general. Although Fidelis Nguli is registered as the party’s secretary general, there have been moves to replace him with a more vibrant personality. Interestingly, this move was initiated three weeks ago by Ngilu to whom Nguli is a confidant.

A source on the going-ons in the party intimated that Ngilu has been pushing to have the position go to Wanagri Maathai, whose party, Mazingira Green, is a member of the coalition. But Ngilu’s move has faced stiff resistance from other parties. When the issue last came up, Alex Mureithi argued against Ngilu’s position, saying that Mazingira Green was a junior partner in the coalition.

Instead, Mureithi argued that the position should go to Noah Wekesa of Ford-Kenya since, among the other major partners of the coalition, DP had the presidency and NPK had the chairmanship.

Another sticky point for the ruling coalition is the issue of admitting new members to the coalition. This issue appears to have been complicated by the emergence of Narc-Kenya as a strong pro-government party. By Wednesday, Ngilu was adamant that Narc-Kenya, whose members she says are arrogant, would not be admitted into the coalition if and when it applied for membership.

Part of her fear is predicated on the perception that Kibaki is close to Narc-Kenya and if he were elected for a second term, he would fill the cabinet with MPs from Narc-Kenya.

On the other hand, Wetangula says the party should be admitted if it dropped its arrogance and contempt for other pro-government parties. The ruling coalition is still to agree on whether it will sponsor parliamentary candidates in all the constituencies or it will sponsor a presidential candidate and a running mate.

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