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Uhuru succession to dominate 2019

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A cut-throat confrontation looms as Kenyans usher in the New Year fraught with succession battles, agitation for a referendum and the push for internal Jubilee Party polls.

The country will be engulfed in heightened political temperatures as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is set to review boundaries, while the National Census will also be held in 2019. Both will have a bearing on constituencies and votes.

Analysts and politicians say these issues are likely to overshadow President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda – the projects he wants to roll out to secure his legacy before he steps down in 2022. They are universal healthcare, affordable housing, revival of manufacturing and food security.

Yesterday National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale sought to play down fears the Jubilee succession game plan and the polls would impede the Big Four.

The Garissa Township MP told the Star the Jubilee leadership would do whatever it takes next year to deliver on its massive pledges to Kenyans and buttress national unity.

“As Jubilee leaders led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, we have a social contract with the People of Kenya and will use all the energy, time and resources in fulfilling our manifesto and the Big Four agenda to better lives,” Duale said.

President Uhuru wants to ride on what may turn out to be short-lived political tranquility inspired by a truce with his foe-turned-friend Raila Odinga and the Building Bridges Initiative. He hopes this will neutralise the succession race and reinforce his legacy.

The handshake team has been crisscrossing the country, collecting views on how Kenyans want a couple of key issues roiling the country tackled. The panel’s proposals are likely to trigger a constitutional change.

Read: Uhuru distances himself from Murathe on Ruto retirement remark

Political analyst Martin Andati yesterday said a referendum is inevitable and will most likely crystallise this year, with far-reaching ramifications for 2022 political formations.

“The country is likely to have a referendum in 2019 or 2020. It will be Raila and Uhuru against Ruto and the rest who are opposed to the referendum, and then the 2022 alignments will emerge,” he told the Star.

Political analyst Mark Bichachi said this will be a decisive year for Ruto and his presidential ambitions.

“How Ruto will play his ball in the middle of the referendum will be a big issue, given that the handshake requires that he doesn’t attack people. Whether he will be the preferred choice for Jubilee will definitely dominate 2019,” he said.

Ahead of the anticipated referendum, tension remains palpable among political figures holding divergent views on the clamour for constitutional change.

Proposed changes include expansion and restructuring of the Executive structure, a parliamentary-type system and a dramatic reduction in the number of MPs and MCAs to reduce the debilitating wage bill and a strengthening of devolution.

Ruto is seen as the face of the anti-referendum push but his allies are strategising how to turn tables against Uhuru and Raila in case of a plebiscite.

Raila wants a parliamentary system entrenched as opposed to the current winner-take-all presidential system accused of perpetuating ethnic exclusion and animosity.

The referendum push and presidential ambitions are likely to widen the Raila-Ruto wedge in the New Year. The former Prime Minister is expected to declare whether or not he will run for President.

“Raila is and will be the most potent player in 2019 and going forward to 2022. He will dwarf all the political pretenders currently masquerading as potential presidential candidates. He will definitely deliver the elusive Kenyan dream come 2022,” Nasa secretariat CEO Norman Magaya told the Star.

He predicted two political groupings going forward, pitting Raila against Ruto and that Raila will win the contest.

“The coming general election will produce many more political casualties than any other poll in our history,” he added.

The Jubilee boat is already unstable due to competing succession interests pitting a faction pushing for Ruto as the heir apparent against his adversaries who are exploring alternatives.

Ruto, a smart and tenacious politician is campaigning frenetically to shore up his countrywide support. He has made it crystal clear that he will be on the ballot to succeed Uhuru.

However, roadblocks are being thrown in his way and there are mixed signal’s from Uhuru’s Kikuyu community, hence, the DP is likely to scale-up his offensive next year to penetrate opponents’ strongholds.

Ruto’s allies have already signaled that next year will be a decisive period, steadying his 2022 presidential bid as he pushes for grassroots and national party elections.

The Star has established that calling for party elections is part of the DP’s scheme to remove interim officials critical of his earlier presumption to succeed President Uhuru.

Read: Waiguru wants fresh Jubilee party polls to elect leaders with ‘legitimate mandate’

Lifting the lid on manoeuvers by Ruto allies to position the DP as the heir apparent in the Jubilee family, National Assembly Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali told the Star that 2019 is the year the party must hold internal elections.

“Next year must be the year when Jubilee will have to go back to its original agenda of uniting this country. Grassroots and national elections are long overdue and some of the leaders who sacrificed their parties to form Jubilee are being overlooked,” said Washiali, a close Ruto ally.

Setting the elections agenda, Washiali warned that it will not be business as usual in Jubilee if interim party officials continue to undermine elected leaders and ridicule politicians inherited from the defunct 13 parties that folded to form Jubilee.

“The earlier we do the elections the better. Otherwise, the Jubilee Party stares at disintegrating if some rogue interim officials are not tamed,” he added. The current situation portends a bleak future for Jubilee, he predicted.

Washiali has asked President Kenyatta and DP Ruto to urgently call for national party polls to instal the people he termed “legitimate officials”.

The push for grassroots polls was triggered by Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru who said on Saturday that elections will give the party “a leadership that has a legitimate mandate and the people’s support”.

Seen as a Ruto point person in Kikuyuland, Waiguru said the internal polls would help forestal internal divisions and ensure that public statements are made by “elected party officials.”

“This is to ensure that they [statements] in fact represent the views of the Jubilee Party as a whole,” she said.

The call for elections could be targeting Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe who has openly told Ruto there is no MoU compelling the Kikuyu community to support him in 2022.

Tellingly, Murathe a close ally of President Uhuru, has dismissed the agitation for fresh party polls, saying the term of the interim officials will expire in 2020.

“Please acquaint yourself with the party Constitution Article 33 (5) on the transition clause. [Secretary general Rafael] Tuju retires in 2020. The operative word is “shall,” Murathe tweeted.

“Unless you want to amend the party Constitution. Mine, you can have on a silver platter even tomorrow. Join the rabid attack dogs,” he added.

But Article 33 [5] states that all interim party officials shall serve for a term not exceeding three years from the date of appointment unless he/she is elected as provided for under the Jubilee constitution.

Yesterday, Murathe told the Star those calling for elections must also be open to have polls for the party leader and his deputy.

“Are those calling for elections only targeting my position, or they also want elections for party leader and deputy party leader ,which are held by Uhuru and Ruto?” Murathe asked.

Read: You can have my job – Murathe tells Waiguru on fresh party elections call

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