The electoral commission has left two crucial windows for party nomination losers to defect and run as independent candidates in the 2022 General Election, or be nominated to Parliament.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has set April 6 to April 22, 2022 as the time within which political parties must conduct their nominations for candidates in the August 9, 2022 elections.
In the election timelines released by the commission, independent candidates will have until May 9, 2022 to cease being members of a political party.
This gives nomination losers a two-week window within which to resign from their parties and run as independent candidates, repeating a 2017 election mess that the law strengthening parties and allowing independent candidates had sought to correct.
"This must be discussed. IEBC has given almost two weeks for candidates of party primaries to defect and run as independent candidates, yet the law is clear on banning party hopping. In 2017, we had a big issue with the independent movement of candidates, that almost became a party, while the opposite is true of what they should represent," Senate Majority Whip Kimani Wamatangi said Thursday.
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Another key timeline that gives party nomination losers a lifeline is on the list of people parties present to be nominated to Parliament after the election.
With IEBC expected to publish a list of all nominated candidates by June 24, 2022, political parties are required to submit their party lists by June 25, 2022.
This means nominations losers will have a chance to be nominated to Parliament since the submission of the list comes just 45 days to the General Election, long after the party primaries have been exhausted.
In 2017, a record 4,002 independent candidates, compared to just 350 in 2013, presented themselves for election as non-party hopefuls, a number analysts say could rise significantly in the 2022 elections.
Some analysts have argued that the independent candidates could be as many as half of the party-backed candidates in the 2022 poll if parties do not address the issues that pushed hopefuls to run as independents.
"The high number of independent candidates was a direct result of Kenya's chaotic primary process and the fact that nearly 20 per cent of incumbents and party candidates failed to win their political party nominations. Prohibitions on party hopping, or candidates switching parties after they lost their primary race, contributed to this dynamic," an analysis of the 2017 election by the US-based Carter Center concluded.
The large number of independent candidates in the 2017 elections contributed to highly contested polls because most of them had been members of the parties they were running against, the centre said.
"The large number of independents created challenges for parties and aspirants at all levels, as it was difficult for political leaders to support a party candidate running against a former member contesting the same seat as an independent," the Carter Center said in its analysis.
If independent candidates were a party, their representation in the National Assembly -- 13 -- would be the fourth largest after Jubilee, ODM, and Wiper, respectively, showing just how big the allure of the independent candidates has become.
At 13, the number of independent candidates who are MPs beat those that political heavyweights Musalia Mudavadi's ANC (12) and Moses Wetang'ula's Ford Kenya with 10 members have in their fold.
Of the 13, six were party candidates who did not win their parties' nomination in regions seen as Jubilee or National Super Alliance (Nasa) strongholds.
These are MPs Mohamed Ali, Nyali, John Paul Mwirigi (Igembe South), Meru County's Kawira Mwangaza, Patrick Wainaina of Thika Town, Turbo's Janet Sitienei, and Suna West's Peter Masara.
In the 1,450 wards, independent candidates who won in the 2017 poll were the third largest group -- a staggering 109 -- only beaten by Jubilee's 582 MCAs and ODM's 339.
Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi and his Isiolo counterpart Mohamed Kuti were elected as independent candidates, while Kirinyaga senator Charles Kibiru is flying the independent flag in the Senate.