By Francis Ngige
- - 20th Sep 2012 00:00:00 GMT +0300
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta’s two-seat victory in Monday by-elections has changed the political landscape in central Kenya where his party now appears the ticket of choice.
The victory in Kangema and Kajiado North constituencies not only made Uhuru’s The National Alliance the only new party to have MPs in Parliament alongside those that were in existence in the 2007 General Election.
It also turned the tide against the other parties within central Kenya that have been demanding that TNA must respect them, as they are equal partners.
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All of a sudden, the scramble for space in TNA has intensified as it seemingly is getting to be the doorway to elective positions on offer next March in central Kenya.
So intense is the scramble for a piece of TNA that as other parties seem edged to the periphery, with a possibility they might have to work with Uhuru one way or another. As a result of the new political tidal wave, aspirants for various seats are jostling to identify themselves with the new party, while others are trying to portray themselves as Uhuru’s point men in their areas.
Capturing the Kajiado North seat, which was late former Internal Security minister George Saitoti’s, boosted Uhuru’s image in the national rating as he wrestled with more seasoned parties like Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement.
Apart from capturing a seat in the Rift Valley constituency, Uhuru also secured the seat in Murang’a formerly held by late Environment minister John Michuki in a race that included Maina Njenga’s Mkenya Solidarity party, and the Party of National Unity.
The Monday win for TNA candidate Tiras Ngahu, who garnered 13,752 votes against United Democratic Forum (UDF) Simon Mwangi’s 2, 981offered Uhuru an opportunity to settle old political scores.
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Ngahu replaces Michuki, who caused a stir before his death by declaring Uhuru the de facto leader of the region after the retirement of President Kibaki. Uhuru’s effort to personally campaign for the seats appeared to have paid off, and changed the notion that the region subscribes to different political parties.
Two other presidential aspirants from the region, Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua and Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, who is running on Kenya National Congress ticket, will also have to contend with the effect of TNA win.
Although the two did not field candidates in the Kangema by-election, a Narc-Kenya candidate in Mutira ward was defeated in Karua’s Kirinyaga home turf, while Kenneth would also be seen to have been beaten in his Murang’a County.
Also suffering humiliation is Njenga, a former Mungiki leader who was initially seen as a threat to Uhuru’s dominance of central Kenya politics.
Njenga, who was campaigning for Mkenya Solidarity candidate John Gathogo in Kangema, even enlisted the support of Raila but his candidate faired badly.
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It was expected there would be a revolt vote against Michuki, whose family backed Uhuru’s candidate, because Mungiki adherents accuse him of orchestrating their killings while he served as Internal Security minister. This did not however materialise as Gathogo got a paltry 400 votes.
Supporters of Uhuru said the results affirm that voters from central Kenya know who their most credible leader is and will, at all costs, reject the balkanisation of the community in line with the many parties competing for supremacy.
“This is a clear statement Uhuru continues to enjoy massive support in central Kenya,” declared Nairobi Metropolitan Minister, Jamleck Kamau, on Wednesday. He added: “The results indicate that the region has chosen to solely remain behind Uhuru and it is a clear message to those doubting his strength.”
The minister and Nyeri politician Simon Mathenge said results were “a clear affirmation that voters from central Kenya know who their most credible leader is and the political direction that the region is headed.”
Ngahu, on his part, expressed joy following the victory saying Kangema people had set the tone for the region by choosing TNA as the party of choice. “It is for us now to make the party strong and ensure that Uhuru’s presidential campaign is on track. He is respected in the region and nationally,” said the MP-elect.
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Former Foreign Secretary Joseph Ndathi, who is eyeing the Kirinyaga Governor’s seat, said the by-election was a big boost to Uhuru’s image in the regional and national politics.
Ndathi, however, said that TNA should ensure free and fair nominations and ensure nobody interferes with nomination of party candidates.
“The people of Kirinyaga, for example, are determined to change leadership through TNA and nobody should try to interfere with nominations. TNA should allow the people a free choice,” argued Ndathi.
Ol-Kalou MP Erastus Mureithi said the outcome of the polls was a blessing for Uhuru as it demonstrated his ability to consolidate the central Kenya vote. “His support is becoming euphoric and I don’t think anyone opposed to him in the region would succeed politically. It is either you toe the line or you are thrown into political oblivion,” said Mureithi.
He said although TNA was just months old, it had boosted its image by bagging two seats and four of 15 civic seats. Assistant Minister Kareke Mbiuki said the win should send a clear message to other parties that were still fighting for political space in the region with TNA.
“TNA is the party of choice and anyone who is preaching anything else is not going anywhere. The region should remain in one party for it to be respected nationally,” said Kareke.
He said the region should learn from the bitter lesson of 2007 when it was fragmented in different political parties and made a bad show nationally in terms of parliamentary seats secured.
Mwea MP Peter Gitau said there was no doubt Uhuru was the candidate to beat in the region having consolidated his support with the by-election wins.
“There has been no contention as to who is the undisputed leader of the region. Uhuru should now move to unite all the other politicians,” said Gitau.
But as politicians allied to TNA devoured the victory, a reason for Uhuru to worry is the rising popularity of UDF candidate Musalia Mudavadi’s UDF, which came second in Kangema. The party has gone full throttle in recruitment drive in the region and although it is viewed as one of Uhuru’s friendly parties, it has been involved in direct competition with TNA.
Laikipia West MPs Nderitu Muriithi and Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni spearhead UDF onslaught in Kangema. During the by-election, Muriithi accused TNA of intimidation to win the seat.