Sunday, 1 June 2014

Makau Mutua: Why URP and TNA are not and can’t be equal partners in Jubilee

 Sunday 1st June, 2014

Let's face it, URP and TNA are not and can’t be equal partners in Jubilee. My crystal ball tells me that the marriage between the two parts of the Jubilee coalition — TNA and URP — may be headed for “divorce court”. Never mind that President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto appear to be reading from the same public script. The old adage is true here — appearances can be deceiving. You can take this to the bank — there’s no love lost between the two political titans. I once called the alliance between TNA and URP “nonsense on stilts”. Methinks the chickens are coming home to roost. That’s because the Kibaki-Odinga curse has come back to bite President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto. The slugfest between their proxies is evidence of turbulence between the two “principals”. Let me refresh your mind in case you’ve forgotten. President Mwai Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga were forced into a political marriage to end the 2008 post-election violence. See also: Jubilee missteps due to having charlatans for advisors In public, their historic rapprochement was sold as a 50-50 share of the spoils. The press referred the two as the “principals”. The impression was that Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga were “co-equals”. In characteristic colourful language, Mr Odinga described his share of power as a “half loaf of bread”. I wasn’t so sure. In fact, I was convinced that Mr Odinga had only gotten the rump of the deal. The evidence was there for all to see ­— Mr Kibaki kept for PNU the key levers of power. It didn’t take the politically astute Mr Odinga long to surmise that he been duped. In a game of political chess, he discovered that former Head of Civil Service Ambassador Francis Muthaura was the real “Prime Minister”. Mr Odinga’s side complained loudly — and often — as its attempts to exercise power were thwarted and frustrated at every turn. But the inscrutable Mr Kibaki kept a studious silence as if he knew zilch. Finally, Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga publicly fell out as the 2013 elections approached. What we knew was undeniable — that Mr Odinga had been the junior partner in the coalition. PM Odinga wasn’t Mr Kibaki’s co-equal. He was the subordinate, even if he never accepted that fact.
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Political coalitions are entered into by “winners” and “losers”. In every electoral contest, there are winners, and there are losers. Let’s get this clear — you can’t have two winners in the same election. One party loses, the other wins. In the case of Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga, the former was the “winner” while the latter the “loser”. It doesn’t matter whether the election was stolen, or not. The fact of the matter was that Mr Kibaki was declared the “winner” and Mr Odinga the “loser”. It was Mr Kibaki and PNU that “accommodated” Mr Odinga and ODM, not the other way round. The “losing” party is the one that’s accommodated. That’s why Mr Odinga was the inferior party. In realpolitik, it doesn’t matter whether the coalition is struck before, or after, the election. In the Kibaki-Odinga marriage, the coalition was a post-election affair. In the Kenyatta-Ruto arrangement, the pact was a pre-election deal. Pre-election coalitions are tacit admissions by the parties that one of them is superior and the other inferior, but that the superior party knows it can’t win the election solo. That’s why it takes on a “helper” to win. The power of the inferior party is its knowledge that the dominant party couldn’t have won but for its help. However, it’s ludicrous — and everyone knows it — that the inferior party doesn’t call the shots. The same logic is true in post-election coalitions. Superiority and inferiority in coalition politics aren’t synonymous with disrespect, or lack of consultation. An inferior party needs its ego stroked by the dominant one. This is true even when it’s clear to both that a 50-50 split of power isn’t — and can’t — be possible. In government, political power can only have one centre, not competing pivots of authority. See also: Jubilee missteps due to having charlatans for advisors Let’s state this unequivocally — you can’t have two co-equals in government. That’s a recipe for disaster and chaos. A republic can only have one sovereign. The old had a saying — two rats can’t live in the same hole. Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter and his Rift Valley Kalenjin MPs must do one thing — accept the fact that TNA is the superior party in the coalition with URP. That’s why he — and his compatriots —must “move on” and stop complaining that URP, or the Kalenjin community, is being shortchanged by TNA. In Jubilee, URP got the short end of the stick. That’s why it’s Mr Kenyatta — and not Mr Ruto — who is President. My advice to Mr Ruto is that he should accept his subordinate status or suffer the Kibaki-Odinga curse.
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