Will Ruto’s coalition avoid the one-term curse?

Monday September 25 2023

President William Ruto (2nd L), Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (C), Prime Cabinet Minister Musalia Mudavadi (2nd R) and a host of other leaders attend an interdenominational prayer service at Bungoma Airstrip grounds in Bungoma County, Kenya on September 17, 2023. PHOTO | PCS


The findings of a less-publicised survey released earlier this week ranked the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), the principal partner in President William Ruto’s ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance coalition, as the most popular political party in Kenya.

With 34 percent of the respondents in the survey by pollster TIFA Research identifying with the Ruto-led UDA, the party’s popularity was more than twice that of its closest rival, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of former prime minister Raila Odinga.

Top officials of UDA, buoyed by perceptions of popularity, have in the past also challenged the other 11 constituent parties of the ruling coalition fold and join the President’s party as part of his re-election strategy.

But in a country where politics is in flux, few believe the party or the coalition will arrive at the next election in August 2027 in the same shape and form.

Read: Would unpopular policies cost Ruto re-election?

No Kenyan president has sought re-election on the ticket of the same party or coalition since Daniel arap Moi did so as the candidate of the independence party Kanu in 1997.


Each euphoric election victory for ruling parties after Kanu has been followed by a dramatic fallout attributed to supremacy battles, personal ambitions, or complaints of betrayal in power sharing.

Moi’s predecessor Mwai Kibaki won the election in 2002 under the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) but ended up defending his seat on the ticket of a hastily assembled Party of National Unity (PNU) five years later after he fell out with a group led by Mr Odinga.

Kenya’s fourth president Uhuru Kenyatta contested the 2013 election as the candidate of the Jubilee Coalition, which had morphed into Jubilee Party by the time of his re-election campaign in 2017. In the run-up to last year’s election, Ruto, who was Deputy President in the Jubilee administration, fell out with Kenyatta and led a faction out of party into a rebranded UDA that eventually teamed up with other parties to form the Kenya Kwanza coalition.

UDA’s push for the dissolution of its coalition partners and have them join it suggests that the curse of one-term ruling parties and coalitions in Kenya’s politics isn’t about to be broken.

Yet, the President’s party itself has its own future to worry about with cracks having emerged within its leadership in some regions in recent weeks.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Trade Minister Moses Kuria, who are locked in a supremacy battle over the local politics of Mount Kenya region, this week had bitter exchanges on social media over public complaints about record-high fuel prices announced by the government on September 14.

Read: More pain in Kenya as pump prices rise in latest review

In response to remarks by Kuria advising people complaining about high fuel prices to drill their own oil wells, Gachagua warned public officials against making insensitive statements about the issue.

Mr Kuria hit back, describing the Deputy President as ‘insecure’ and averse to the truth, even as a number of politicians came out to call for his sacking.