Jerry Okungu: What By Elections Taught Party Heads - The Star

Yes, the chickens are coming home to roost if they haven't already. Wanjiku is finally flexing her muscles. She has said she must part ways with the past for good. She is screaming on the rooftop warning the political class that with the advent of the new constitution, it will not be business as usual.

And she doesn't seem to have any respect for the high and mighty, rich or famous. She seems to scorn pedigree in our political system. Major political parties don't intimidate her either. But somehow, she seems to loathe individual arrogance most on the part of those who want to be our national leaders.

The just concluded by-elections in Juja, Makadara and Starehe are classic examples in how Kenyan politics has changed. In Juja, it did not matter that the fairly wealthy George Thuo was openly supported by Uhuru Kenyatta and Kalonzo Musyoka, the two political heavyweights that also lead two major parties in Parliament.

To have lost a seat he supposedly won with a landslide in 2007 just two years ago was some kind of a paradox because he dropped to third position far behind the man he is supposed to have beaten. Was this proof that Juja ballot boxes were stuffed in favour of the winner in 2007?

To come third after the relatively new Alice Wambu Ng'ang'a of Thika must have been really painful to the former Government Chief whip who has hardly spent three years in Parliament.

The Starehe results also sent a strong message to the political establishment that the old order must give way to the new order. The new wine cannot survive in the old wineskin. Maina Kamanda may have been a good councillor in Nairobi in the last century and even a good MP for Starehe at the turn of the century.

However, times have changed and the electorate has grown younger, more politicised and better informed. The old politics is gone kabisa. Now the electorate is demanding more than handouts.

Give them handouts but also show them that you can improve their lives.

Bishop Margaret Wanjiru may not have done better than Kamanda in the two years she has been in Parliament but at least she has consistently preached hope for them every week since her election.

Another twist to Kamanda's loss must have been the Mungiki factor, with adherents voting for the lady that their former boss openly supported. The combination of her church followers and Mungiki adherents was a factor anybody could ignore in Starehs at their peril. It came to pass.

The Starehe results were intriguing in one aspect. They were too close to the 2007 results to be ignored. However, they were way off the mark when one considered the recount results just before Wanjiru's victory was nullified. The question that begs answers is: If Kamanda beat Wanjiru by 15,000 during the recount whereas Wanjiru beat him by 1,000 votes during the 2007 elections, where did Kamanda's supporters disappear to this time round?

Incidentally more or less the same numbers that voted in Wanjiru in 2007 voted for her again this week. Were Kamanda's ballot boxes stuffed with more votes after the 2007 elections?

Reuben Ndolo lost a seat he thought was his for the taking in Makadara. He had successfully petitioned against Dick Wathika and the courts decided in his favour. However it seems the voters in Makadara had something up their sleeves.

They looked at Ndolo and Wathika and thought there was no difference between the two. So they opted for the third option. They chose little known Mike Sonko.

This must be a wake-up call to all political parties.

Free the democratic space within your parties. Practice internal democracy before you come out to compete against other parties. Forget blue-eyed-boy mentality where certain individuals
must get direct nomination at the expense of even better and more popular candidates.

Encourage internal competition because it is healthy for the growth of the party!

The secret to political" popularity lies in being tested from the grassroots. Those who claim to be popular yet fear to face challenges at the nomination level are conmen and women who are used to riding on the backs of popular parties. They not only give the party a bad name but they are also expensive for the party in the long run. Worse still, they cause unnecessary rebellion and protest voting against their parties and party leaders. Had ODM and PNU listened to Wanjiku, they would not have lost Juja and Makadara. One hopes that this is a lesson well learnt.

The writer is a media consultant.

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