Monday, 17 April 2017

Nasa flag: The tactical importance of timing; 16.04.2017

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Raila Odinga and Moses Wetang'ula after they signed the National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition agreement in Nairobi on February 22, 2017. Mr OdingaFrom left: Opposition leaders Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, Raila Odinga and Moses Wetang'ula after they signed the Nasa coalition agreement in Nairobi on February 22, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 


  • Machakos Wiper Senator Johnstone Muthama said as much earlier this month: Since Nasa’s line-up is their “secret weapon”, they “cannot just expose things to our Jubilee opponents.
  • My guess, then, is that the Nasa principals, at least, know exactly what they are doing. 
  • A Jubilee victory would relegate all four Nasa principals to the political wilderness.
It now seems like a long time since mid-November when the Nation reported that the Opposition’s presidential flag-bearer would be unveiled “in March”, a promise repeated in early January with the announcement by ODM Director of Elections and Suna East MP Junet Mohamed that the Nasa presidential line-up would be revealed “in 60 days.” 
Yet here we are in mid-April and Kenyans are still being told to “be patient”. 
Several important consequences have resulted from this “delay”. On the negative side, it has given Jubilee leaders the opportunity to repeatedly paint the Opposition as being “clueless, rudderless, disorganised, and leaderless.”
It has also generated increasing tension among Nasa’s own leaders and supporters. This recently reached a new level after the “leaking”, reportedly by acting ODM Secretary-General Agnes Zani, of the line-up arrived at by the technical committee established to determine which pair could make the strongest challenge to Jubilee: “Raila-Kalonzo,” a repeat of the 2013 Cord ticket. 
This, in turn, led to expressions of concern by both Mr Kalonzo Musyoka and Mr Musalia Mudavadi, who insisted that no such decision had been made, and to which Mr Odinga and his associates quickly added their own assurances.
Of course, given the salience of one’s ethnic identity, especially in national political contests, Jubilee would like to know just who the Opposition’s standard-bearer will be, since their own strategy will depend in large part on this fact.  From Nasa’s perspective, the less time Jubilee have to do that, the better.
Machakos Wiper Senator Johnstone Muthama said as much earlier this month: Since Nasa’s line-up is their “secret weapon”, they “cannot just expose things to our Jubilee opponents because they will start poking holes in us,” that is, undermining the opposition’s flagbearer.
And since the deadline for submission of all candidates’ certificates to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is not until May 10, there is no legal need to rush.
But there could be another, and even more important, reason for this delay: The party nominations for the five other elective positions that have only just begun (set to end on April 26), and which have stirred considerable anxiety within the ranks of all political parties.
While most of it is centred around the contests’ actual outcomes, there are several other challenging questions:  How much harmony or unity will remain within local party branches? Will the losers – at least those who have any significant followings – put their weight behind the winners, especially in areas where there is significant multi-party competition, or will they take their influence elsewhere, or simply withdraw? 
Perhaps most important, how much will the ultimate success of the nomination winners on August 8 depend on having the leader of their political party (and especially of the same ethnic group) at the “top of the ticket”, as the presidential flag-bearer, or at least as his deputy president running-mate?
Obviously, for Jubilee, this question was answered long ago, given the certainty that the current occupant of State House and his deputy would contest again. But for Nasa, this means that any such announcement before the nominations are over could have a major impact. Why? 
Hints are evident in the declarations of several major politicians that their own national political alignment will shift if the Nasa presidential candidate is from their “home” ethnic group. 
Just two examples are Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka and Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba, who have separately declared their support for UhuRuto’s re-election, but with a caveat: that if either Mr Mudavadi or Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula ends up at the top of the Nasa ticket, they will “come home” and support “one of their own”.
The point is that Nasa’s eventual presidential candidate will have much more influence over his own political party than any of the other three, especially the two who must wait until after a Nasa victory for their public futures to emerge. 
In the meantime, however disappointed the (two) unsuccessful Nasa principals may be at not getting onto the presidential ballot, the last thing they want now is for such a decision to become known. 
First, it would deflate the overall popularity of their respective political parties, both within their home-ethnic bases and generally.  Second, it would reduce their influence in determining which aspirants clinch their party nominations, covering all positions from governor to ward reps.
A key objective must be to ensure that as many personally loyal associates clinch nominations within their parties as possible. Given the general absence of anything approaching a unifying ideology in Kenyan political parties (whatever their genuine differences), personal loyalty is a priceless substitute. 
At the same time, the high risk here is that a Jubilee victory would relegate all four principals to the political wilderness, in contrast to the present, where at least one of them (Mr Wetang’ula) holds a national office.
If this argument makes any sense, and whatever the evident costs (as shown above) it may at least partly explain why Nasa is in no hurry to “end the anxiety” within its ranks and make the “much-delayed” announcement. My guess, then, is that the Nasa principals, at least, know exactly what they are doing. 
In an imperfect world – especially absent the luxury of an abundance of state resources with which to tempt and reward – the tactical importance of timing cannot be overlooked.
 Dr Wolf, a Research Analyst with Ipsos-Kenya, has written this in his personal capacity

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