Sunday, 8 November 2015

ODM’s perpetual campaign paralysing Jubilee power

The crisis is we have too many know-it-all cooks now spoiling the broth in the public sphere
Opposition leaders from left Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila Odinga, Moses Wetangula and Martha Karua holding copies of the Okoa Kenya Referendum booklets containing Signatures that were collected in the country on October 28,2015. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Perpetual paralysis. Had Jubilee taken its politics seriously and upped its game, the impact of the blip on-going doom and gloom perception in the October-November hiatus would have gone unnoticed.
What ODM is exploiting: There is no economic crisis in Kenya.
The crisis is we have too many know-it-all cooks now spoiling the broth in the public sphere debate about the state of the economy.
A glimpse of assessments, reports and projections by national and international agencies reveals that the situation is not as bleak as it is presented by some wonks.
In its Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa report, the IMF revised Kenya’s 2016 growth estimate down from its initial projection of 7.2 per cent to 6.8 per cent owing to the prevailing harsh economic conditions globally.
Similarly, the World Bank Group Economic Report released on October 15, 2015, showed that the Kenyan economy is expected to be resilient in the face of worsening global growth.
East Africa’s largest economy will grow by 5.4 per cent this year before accelerating to 5.7 per cent next year on account of the volatility of the shilling and a worsening fiscal deficit.
Kenya was ranked 14 out of 54 in this year’s Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) released on October 5, 2015 attributed to its “strong scores in the rule of law, business environment and infrastructure”.
Although the government also cut its own 2015 economic growth projection from 6.5 per cent down to 5.3 per cent, this is still higher than the Africa average of 5 per cent.
On the whole, the Jubilee Government appears to be on course.
In its report released in late October titled: Promises Kept: A Mid-Term Review of the Performance of the Jubilee Government, 2013-2015, the research firm, East Africa Index, revealed that in its 30 months in office, the Jubilee Government has on average fulfilled 59.49 per cent of the promises it made to voters in 2013.
Why then the doom and gloom in the air?
Three months ago, this column attributed Jubilee’s woes to its awfully weak political capacity (SN, August 22, 2015) that opposition tacticians have ingeniously exploited to do rings around the government and to create a pervading perception of a country hurtling down the cliff.
To be sure, Jubilee is playing perfectly by the rules.
Upon its victory in 2013, it has stuck to the textbook theory of electoral democracy based on a clear divide between campaign and governing time.
Here, election winners train their focus on turning promises into policy, believing that at the end of the term, the voter will pass judgement based on its performance.
In view of this old school view of politics, Jubilee is a theatre of the absurd where a football team is playing a decisive match with blinkers on, but still wondering why it is losing the game.
Since May last year, ODM embarked on a media-based and “data-heavy” campaign that exploits practically every issue of public concern, which it has categorised as either “failure” or “corruption deal”.
These include the “failure to protect” citizens in the face of terrorism, the “Uganda sugar deal”, “failure to honour court ruling” on pay to teachers, the “NYS scandal” and recently the government’s “failed economic promises”.
With this, ODM has successfully imported into Kenyan politics the “permanent campaign” approach practised in America for decades now. 
In a nutshell, this model shifts the game of politics from strategy to tactics, from concrete future-oriented policies to the daily news cycle, from the politics of consensus-building to a “war room” approach.
ODM’s perpetual campaign model is paying off handsomely.
With it, ODM has successfully blurred the traditional divide between election and governing (development) time.
Although the opposition is outnumbered and out-gunned in Parliament and its financial base at its weakest, the permanent campaign approach has enabled it to perpetually paralyse and hold the government under permanent siege, denying it the vital time it needs to turn promises into policy.
Worse still, ODM is recording some success in creating the public perception of “a government in crisis”.
This has come with a heavy political cost for cohesion and stability within Jubilee’s top echelons and the rank-and-file.
Here is a perfect “divide-and-conquer” tactic that is working like clockwork. 
With an eye on 2017, ODM has constantly called for national dialogue to resolve the “national crisis”.
Undoubtedly, the government has grown increasingly vulnerable to the perception-oriented, media-driven and data-heavy permanent campaign model.
Like the proverbial ogre that constantly needs blood, the permanent campaign machine has to regularly draw blood.
After the first wave of ODM’s “failure to protect” campaign that focused on the security sector in the face of increasing terrorist attacks and banditry, in the May-December 2014 interlude, the government had to let go its Security minister, Joseph ole Lenku, and a host of other senior security officials.
The second wave saw ODM launch its “anti-corruption campaign” in January-March 2015.
This led to the suspension of four ministers and scores of senior officials in March 2015.
Take my word to the bank: Even when Jubilee removes its Cabinet Secretary and senior officials from the Devolution and Planning ministry, the permanent campaign machine will not stop grinding.
ODM is already stealthily turning its permanent campaign guns to the Treasury where it has released “data” to expose “scandals”. Here, too, blood must be drawn!
And even after this, the opposition “war room” will scan the horizons for the next issue in the daily news cycle to feed its permanent campaign machine.
Permanent campaigns are known potent killers of governments in elections.
Jubilee needs political capacity to neutralise the perpetual paralysis and silence the prophets of doom that Kenya is headed for the apocalypse in 2017.
Prof Kagwanja is chief executive, Africa Policy Institute

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