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Nyeri race shifts as rival opts to back governor

By Nderitu Gichure | Published Thu, August 3rd 2017 at 00:00, Updated August 2nd 2017 at 23:50 GMT +3
Nyeri Governor Samuel Wamathai (centre) and his running mate Githinji Kinyanjui (right) after his challenger Thuo Mathenge announced his support for Mr Wamathai. The IEBC scrapped Thuo’s candidature. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

IN SUMMARY

  • Incumbent Nyeri Governor Samuel Wamathai endorsed by another aspirant, Thuo Mathenge
  • But the Jubilee Party candidate is still the man to beat, having floored Wamathai by 48,000 votes in the primaries

The dynamics in the battle for the Nyeri governor's seat have shifted after the incumbent, Samuel Wamathai, was endorsed by another aspirant, Thuo Mathenge.

Mr Mathenge bowed out of the race in favour of Wamathai with less than a week to the polls after he lost a court battle to remain on the ballot paper.

His support for Wamathai comes barely three weeks after the High Court in Nyeri upheld the nullification of his nomination by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Mathenge lost his bid after residents asked the court to revoke his candidature because he did not have a university degree, which is mandatory for governors.

Three-horse race

The contest has now narrowed down to three candidates - Wamathai, who is vying as an independent candidate, Jubilee's Wahome Gakuru and Patrick Munene of the Democratic Party.

Nyeri has 460,000 registered voters.

The position initially attracted four contestants. Githinji Kinyanjui bowed out immediately after the Jubilee nominations to become the governor's running mate.

Mr Kinyanjui comes from the populous Mathira constituency that has more than 110,000 registered voters

Mr Gakuru, the Jubilee candidate, is likely to find himself in a position similar to 2013, when he bagged The National Alliance's (TNA) nomination ticket, the most popular party in the region at the time.

But he lost the seat to Nderitu Gachagua of the little-known Grand National Union (GNU). Mr Gachagua died earlier this year.

Popular ticket

Having won the most popular ticket again, Gakuru faces stiff competition from Gachagua's 2013 running mate, Wamathai.

However, he remains the candidate to beat. In the nominations, he got 114,327 votes against Wamathai's 65,492. Senator Mutahi Kagwe came a distant third with 56,000 votes.

The Jubilee candidate, who comes from Nyeri Town constituency, has opted for teachers' union boss Mutahi Kahiga as his running mate. Gakuru is viewed as a manager from his time at the Vision 2030 Directorate. Mr Kahiga comes from Kieni constituency, which has more than 120,000 registered voters.

Wednesday, Wamathai, who had initially insisted he would run for only one term, said he was seeking another one to complete the projects started by his predecessor.

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