Major Political parties are in a race against time to recruit more members ahead of the 2022 polls.
However, the partial lockdown in five counties, lack of physical gathering and the COVID-19 pandemic have now forced the parties to turn to digital recruitment of members and online campaigns.
United Democratic Alliance (UDA) linked to Deputy President William Ruto, Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper and Gideon Moi’s Kanu have established digital registration portals to woe more members to their sides.
ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna said the response to the online registration is good, adding that on Wednesday morning he had signed 100 new life members.
Sifuna said in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, ODM opted to go big on digital as it prepares for the election.
“The uptake is good. We are impressed with the numbers. Our youth are registering in large numbers. As one of the largest political parties in the country, we hope to leverage on these numbers in the next election,” said Sifuna.
Apart from membership drive, UDA is investing massively on digital messaging set to be rolled out in every social media platform.
UDA is also investing in local tech-savvy teams with a huge presence on social media platforms.
Social media was a factor in the last two general elections—2013 and 2017. Analysts say the 2022 general election will be no different except online campaigns may become more sophisticated.
In 2017, Uhuru hired the services of global data-mining company Cambridge Analytica, which was responsible for spreading anti-Raila Odinga information.
UDA chairman Johnson Muthama said his party will rally Kenyans on development issues, adding that “beneficiaries of tribal politics have their days numbered”.
“We see some of our competitors organizing themselves along tribal blocs. We are past that. UDA is a party of fresh ideologies on development and transformation of the entire country regardless of tribe,” he said.
“It is no longer about how you fought for liberation or multipartism that was then. The Kenyans we have now are after leaders who are committed to changing their lives for the better.”
The former Machakos senator said UDA has rolled out an elaborate plan to register as many members as possible.
“Youth are a critical component of our party. Scan around and you will see faces of youth and women who are running UDA. We just unveiled an online registration platform recently and we are amazed with the numbers and the interests thousands of Kenyans have expressed,” he said.
Muthama said apart from digital, manual registration is also ongoing at party offices across the country.
He said the party has five categories of membership – platinum, gold, silver, bronze and imara – each with its own registration fee.
Wiper Democratic Movement executive director Jared Siso said they have registered many new members since the launch of their portal last year, adding that it is time for parties to also find new ways of reaching out to members.
Siso said the 2022 general election will be determined by numbers and parties will have to compete for the close to 20 million eligible voters.
“We were among the pioneer parties to go digital in registration of members. The system is active and very easy to register. We are targeting the youth who have access of smartphones and computers,” he said.
“Youth make a good population of our country and we want them to participate in large numbers in leadership and governance. As a party we believe in the youth and our party leader Kalonzo Musyoka is on record championing issues touching on the young people.”
Kanu secretary general Nick Salat said that the presence of political parties on digital platforms is the new frontier and competition is expected to go a notch higher.
He said the party’s digital membership recruitment is progressing well since it was launched by Chairman Gideon Moi.
“Immediately we launched the drive, the Covid-19 pandemic was announced. So for us it was timely. Our chairman in his recent tours to various parts of the country has been rallying our supporters to register through the digital platform,” said Salat.
He said the 2022 election will be a game of numbers and the party that will have a higher number of registered members and voters will have a head start in the presidential race.
“We are in the process of computing the numbers we have so far. I can say so far so good. We have met the threshold and we are good to go. The first bird catches the worm,” Salat said.