KILIFI: Jubilee and CORD will today hold campaign rallies in Malindi to drum up support for their candidates as the by-election draws closer.
ODM Secretary General Ababu Namwamba and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi will lead a number of CORD leaders on the campaign trail as Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko and Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro drum up support for the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) candidate.
Both coalitions are courting various ethnic groups and trade unions — especially teachers — in a bid to win bloc votes in the March 7 Malindi constituency by-election.
Mijikenda elders are campaigning for Shirikisho Party of Kenya (SPK) as the big parties spend huge sums of money to sell their candidates with a sharp focus on the 2017 general election.
Analysts see the poll as some kind of a proxy contest between Kingi and rebel ODM legislator Mung’aro, who says he will challenge the governor in 2017 for the seat.
The CORD leadership is seeking to cement their coalition’s supremacy in the coast region by recapturing the seat, while JAP is keen to demonstrate that it is gaining strength in the opposition stronghold.
Mung’aro and other CORD rebels like Mustafa Idd and Zainab Chidzuga are now supporting JAP’s Philip Charo while Kingi is fronting for his party’s Willy Mtengo. “We are pushing for reforms in ODM and the party needs to listen to us. The party should accommodate the divergent views,” said Mr Idd.
Ms Chidzuga said they had to support Mr Charo after the controversial ODM nomination claiming Sanga Barawa beat Mr Mtengo but was denied victory.
“We cannot be forced by ODM to support somebody we feel had beaten in the party primaries. The nominations were flawed and we have decided to support an individual and not a political party in the Malindi by-election,” said Chidzuga.
Kingi and his Mombasa counterpart Hassan Joho are leading various CORD campaign teams.
CORD and Jubilee are concentrating in the vote-rich Shella and Malindi Town wards which hold half of the constituency’s voters. This is also where most of the so-called upcountry voters live.
But even as Jubilee luminaries set up camp in the constituency, Charo has been selling himself to the voters as an individual, fearing that JAP is not well grounded in Malindi compared to ODM.
Small parties like Kadu-Asili, Federal Party of Kenya, Chama Uzalendo, Labour Party of Kenya and Shirikisho have also fielded candidates in the by-election.
Shirikisho has sponsored David Mangi Kitunga, Kadu Asili has Reuben Katana, Federal Party of Kenya has Nelson Gunga, Chama Cha Uzalendo has Peter Ponda while Labour Party of Kenya has pegged its hopes on Attas Sheriff.
Most candidates are ethnic Giriama and hail from Ganda Ward. No politician from the upcountry tribes is participating in the contest.
Political observers say the strength of the campaigner, funds, voter turnout and teachers participation may determine the outcome of the by-election.
Pwani University lecturer Hassan Mwakimako says the presence of senior coalition leaders from both CORD and Jubilee was an indicator of how highly the two coalitions regard the seat.
Mwakimako, however, observed that significant upcountry votes spread out in the urban area, particularly in Shella and Malindi Town wards, might not benefit the candidates much since such voting blocs usually vote for presidential candidates.
The main upcountry tribes in these region are Meru, Kikuyu, Somali, Luo, Luhyia, Kamba and Gusii.
“Although the major political parties are competing for the upcountry votes, such blocs overwhelmingly back presidential candidates and not Members of Parliament,” Dr Mwakimako argues.
The squatter question, alleged marginalisation of the area and the troubled tourism sector are some of the crucial issues raised in the campaigns particularly by CORD and the small parties.
Stanley Chai, a local observer, says the contest is too close to call between Mr Charo and Mtengo.
Charo is relying on his network among churches while Mtengo depends on ODM grassroots structure.
“Mr Charo seems to be running against the ODM wave and hopes to weather the storm with his personal networking because he does not mention his party much in his campaign meetings. It is s neck to neck race in Malindi,” Chai said on Thursday.
He believes that the ratio of indigenous and upcountry voters in the constituency of 57,000 voters stands at about 60 to 40 per cent respectively hence the struggle for the vote on either side.
In 2013 Dan Kazungu, the outgoing MP won the seat by 14,000 votes. Kazungu was recently appointed the Mining Cabinet Secretary.