Nassir, Omar jostle for Mombasa top seat as Joho factor looms large

Political analysts, however, say the election will most likely put to test the mighty of Azimio la Umoja Coalition leaders Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta against President-elect William Ruto.

In the case filed at the Supreme Court to challenge Ruto's win, Mombasa has been cited as Raila's stronghold. In his affidavit, he claims that IEBC's decision to postpone the Mombasa election was a scheme to suppress voter turnout in his stronghold.

All the Azimio la Umoja coalition parties are backing ODM's Abdulswamad Nassir while Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza brigade are behind former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

All top leaders of the Azimio coalition have campaigned for Nassir in Mombasa. Yesterday, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and former Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu were also expected in Mombasa to hold meetings with their supporters in Changamwe.

On Thursday, Deputy president-elect Rigathi Gachagua met Mombasa traders to implore them to vote for Omar. Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko also campaigned for Omar in Changamwe and Jomvu areas that are dominated by Akamba voters.

The election is seen as a litmus test of outgoing Governor Hassan Ali Joho's supremacy at the Coast, which is being challenged by former governors Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Salim Mvurya (Kwale). For the past few days, Kingi has been campaigning for Omar despite the fact that his Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) also has Mombasa Deputy Governor Dr William Kingi in the race.

While Nassir and Omar are the front runners in the race, which attracted seven contenders, analysts say none of the two is likely to succeed Joho.

At the same time, both candidates have sought to portray themselves as underdogs in the race.

Nassir said, unlike his rival, he lacks a huge financial muscle while Omar, on the other hand, vied on the UDA ticket, which is popular in Mombasa which is perceived as Raila's stronghold.

In an interview, Nassir said his stint at the helm of the Public Investment Committee (PIC) in Parliament proved to voters that he was independent-minded, and a fighter against graft.

"I have fought for workers who were laid off by Kenya Ports Authority. I went to the streets to demonstrate against the effects of Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)," he said in an interview.

Yesterday Julius Ogogoh, a political commentator, said Nassir was "the unlikely ODM candidate" because of his past on-and-off relationship with Joho.

"At one point it looked like Joho wanted County Assembly Speaker Aharub Khatri to succeed him. This was before banker Suleiman Shahbal defected from Jubilee to ODM," said Ogogoh, the Executive Director for Human Rights and Justice (CHRJ).

"Nassir was the underdog in the battle for ODM ticket against banker Suliman Shahbal but do not forget that political analysts also wrote off Omar because of his party and associating himself with Deputy President William Ruto," said Ogogoh.

Nassir's chance to succeed Joho looked dim after Shahbal joined the battle for the ODM ticket. Mr Shahbal ran against Joho in the 2013 and 2017 races and political observers said he had mastered Mombasa politics. In June last year, he defected from Jubilee to ODM complicating Nassir's chances.

Political analyst and lawyer Abubakar Yusuf said unlike Nassir, Shahbal also had easy access to President Uhuru Kenyatta, ODM leader Raila Odinga, Kalonzo and Joho.

Yusuf said although Nassir had an impressive record in Parliament, Shahbal had the advantage of being wealthy and close to Uhuru and Raila following the handshake.

"Suleiman Shahbal had a connection with Uhuru, Raila, and even Kalonzo and that was his huge political strength that could not be ignored," said Mr Yusuf in a phone interview.