By Oscar Obonyo
Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi continues to confound his rivals with his strong showing as a second choice candidate across the country.
In a race against all those who have declared interest in State House, the Sabatia MP only manages fifth place, according to the latest polls, with his support still in single digits. However, going head-to-head against his rivals, he outperforms all but the top two contenders.
This has sparked debate over whether his chances of victory at the polls with his support still in single digits. However, going head-to-head against his rivals, he outperforms all but the top two contenders. This has sparked debate over whether his chances of victory at the polls are dependent on factors beyond his control.
Reports that he performs worse against PM Raila Odinga (45:55) than Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta does (50:50), however, present a challenge for central Kenya players said to be backing his candidacy as a fallback position should Uhuru Kenyatta not run. Some pundits say a better gamble for these ‘old money’ players would be to stick with Uhuru or reach out to frontrunner Raila Odinga.
Others say it is still early in the day and Mr Mudavadi’s broad popularity should see him eat into his rivals’ numbers even further as March 4, 2013 approaches.
Mudavadi, who is still struggling to rally western Kenya behind him, has been receiving a warm reception in pre-campaign rallies elsewhere, including in regions where stronger rivals like Uhuru and Eldoret North MP William Ruto enjoy fervent support.
Most supporters of Uhuru, Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa, Assistant minister Peter Kenneth and Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua say they would throw their support behind Mudavadi. Even backers of the Prime Minister, who he deserted recently, would vote for the Sabatia MP if the ODM leader were not in the race.
The poll findings come at a time when Mudavadi’s campaign team is attracting sizeable crowds across the country. The Deputy PM, who considers himself ‘The People’s Project’, has in the process been nicknamed ‘Macharia’, ‘Musila’ and ‘Maslah’, by fans in Central Kenya, Eastern and Northern Kenya.
While opinion is divided as to the implications of this trend, politicians and polling experts are in agreement the United Democratic Forum (UDF) flag-bearer can build on the wide public acceptability to propel his presidential ambition. Noting that Mudavadi was a late entrant in the race, Information assistant minister George Khaniri says the Deputy PM’s numbers are on the rise. The Hamisi MP says Wamalwa should, therefore, drop his bid to be president “in favour of his senior kinsman”.
Caesar Handa, CEO of Strategic Africa, says Mudavadi is presenting himself as the sensible compromise, “a safe pair of hands” that can be trusted by all.