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Jubilee under pressure to abandon smart card in primaries

Monday March 20 2017

Jubilee Party

Albert Memusi, Jubilee Party communications director, shows the smart card during an interview with the Nation at the party's headquarters on January 12, 2017. The party is staring at a crisis over plan to conduct its nominations using a digital smart card. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By PATRICK LANG'AT
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President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party is staring at a crisis over what some now describe as an over-ambitious plan to conduct its nominations using a digital smart card.

Mr Raphael Tuju, the head of the Jubilee Party secretariat, on Monday said the National Elections Board will make a decision on the use of the cards, a double-edged decision that will cut both ways.

“The NEB has the final authority and will soon pronounce themselves on the smart card use after doing due diligence. They are on a fact finding mission,” Mr Tuju said.

The party is under pressure from its members and aspirants to abandon the card, but having collected approximately Sh140 million from the seven million cards it had sold, the party is in a Catch 22 situation.

Monday’s statement by Mr Tuju was different from a tough-talking secretariat that had on Saturday vowed that the cards will be used.

“You certainly must have the Jubilee Smart card to participate in Jubilee nominations. Any other information to the contrary is simply meant to mislead,” the party tweeted on its official Twitter account after reports that it planned to abandon the use of the cards in the primaries.

The Jubilee team had described the Sh20 smart cards as a panacea to what usually are chaotic and almost always disputed party nominations.

But it was asking aspirants to buy cards for their members that has presented a huge challenge for President Kenyatta’s team.

DISHING OUT CARDS

Wealthy politicians went full-throttle to buy the cards and went dishing out the cards, together with money to register members, who will be critical in the upcoming nominations.
So crucial was the acquisition of the cards for the aspirants that some took a break from the campaigns after acquiring as many cards as possible, and more than opponents.

With such increased, especially in Central and Rift Valley regions, Mr Tuju last week said the seven million cards it had procured ran out and the party had to order an additional three million.

“These cards will kill us. A rich aspirant goes for cards that assures him of victory in the nomination and then goes all-out to attach bribes when registering members.

This card has legitimised rigging by use of money,” a gubernatorial aspirant in the Rift Valley told the Nation on condition of anonymity.

On Monday, Mr Tuju said it was people’s right to question how something they had spent money on can be abandoned, arguing for its use.

“The card assures the integrity of our process. Without it, our opponents will infiltrate our nominations and choose the people they know they will beat in the General Election. We cannot have that,” said Mr Tuju on phone.

On Sunday during a press conference at the party headquarters, Mr Tuju said that the only places they were sure will not use the cards are those that have few members and almost no challenge to aspirants that want to use the JP ticket.

“In places like Siaya where we have only 1.2 per cent support, it would be almost impossible to conduct nominations. We would rather do consensus,” said Mr Tuju.

In an earlier interview, the party’s vice-chairman David Murathe warned aspirants who are hoarding cards in the hope of using them on nominations day that only card-holding members of the party will be allowed to vote for their preferred leaders.

“People should know that having five cards will be useless because only one card will be used. There is no need giving cards to your supporters who are not members of the party,” he said on phone.

The secretariat had this week argued that its party membership list was foolproof, and was only made better by the cards.

“We have a detailed party register of members built from merged party list, online SMS registration and activation of party cards,” the secretariat said.