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VAS

Raila ups tempo in search of votes

POLITICS
By By Kepher Otieno | August 4th 2012

By Kepher Otieno

With opinion polls predicting a tight contest, Prime Minister Raila Odinga is trying to win over key regions that could swing the race in his favour.

Recent polls have suggested no candidate can secure a first round victory. The latest Infotrak Harris survey has raised the stakes even higher, however, predicting that Raila would tie in a second round of voting with his closest rival Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta. Other pollsters and political rivals have disputed this view, saying the number of undecided voters remains larger than indicated by the Infotrak poll.

That said, the findings have spurred ODM efforts to break away from the competition.

Raila’s camp is working to secure support in Kisii, Meru, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and central Kenya reckoning these regions could prove the tiebreaker. Yesterday, Raila addressed a rally at Dol Dol in Laikipia County after Kenyatta.

Other pollsters and political rivals have disputed this view, saying the number of undecided voters remains larger than indicated by the Infotrak poll. That said, the findings have spurred ODM efforts to break away from the competition.

Raila’s camp is working to secure support in Kisii, Meru, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and central Kenya reckoning these regions could prove the tiebreaker. Yesterday, Raila addressed a rally at Dol Dol in Laikipia County after visiting the families of two freedom heroes in Nyandarua County. The two-day tour had started on Thursday with visits to the families of the late Dedan Kimathi and Josiah Mwangi ‘JM’ Kariuki whom the PM feted.

Raila’s engagements in Nyandarua build on an older strategy to tap into the Kiambu-Nyeri divide, and other historical divides in central Kenya between the perceived “sons of the Mau Mau” and the sons of home guards and the elite. Instructively, former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga, lately a fierce critic of Uhuru, was in the PM’s entourage.

Njenga and retired Anglican Church Archbishop David Gitari, backed by the PM’s camp, recently convened a regional meeting to counter Uhuru’s influence. Dubbed Limuru 2B, it followed an initial gathering of leaders of the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (Gema) that had endorsed Uhuru.

To counter the influence in western Kenya of his deputy Musalia Mudavadi, Raila appears keen to tap into the Sabatia MP’s differences with Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa. Mr Wamalwa is thought to have Trans Nzoia and Bungoma counties behind him and there have been reports he could be warming up to the PM. Some in Raila’s camp have read more into his recent forays in Kisumu with talk of an alliance with the New Ford-Kenya man.

Raila’s strongest rival, Uhuru, has already pledged to work exclusively with Wamalwa in western Kenya, and is believed to see him as his running mate.

In Meru, Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara is the PM’s point man and deputy patron of Friends of Raila (Fora), a lobby group supporting his presidential campaign.

Gusii region

ODM has also redoubled efforts to woo the Gusii region, which is within Raila’s Nyanza Province turf, but votes independently from Luo Nyanza. Last weekend, Raila met Kisii professionals in Nairobi and promised ODM would back a candidate from the community for one of the parliamentary seats in the city. The proposition is particularly attractive given the community had never had their own elected MP in the city.

Even as all this activity goes on, the PM’s spokesman Dennis Onyango says the ODM leader is yet to launch campaign proper. Thus, he argues, current poll figures show Raila is in much stronger shape than his rivals.

“We take the fact that the PM is at par with Uhuru at this point as a very strong positive pointer to the fact that Raila stands to win the coming election,” said Mr Onyango. “It should be sufficiently clear the PM, unlike all his opponents, has not began campaigning, not in the way Kenyans know him to campaign when he begins,” he added.

He reckons other than concentrating on Government for much of the year, the PM has concentrated on consolidating the party. Mr Imanyara says Raila is working to garner a majority votes in more than half of the 47 counties.

“This is our goal and we have mooted multiple strategies to avoid a possible run off,’’ Imanyara told The Standard Friday. The Imenti Central MP is confident his community will not vote along ethnic lines to propel leaders from Central to power.

South Mugirango MP Manson Nyamweya claims most MPs in Kisii support Raila. “It’s difficult to ignore your neighbour. Raila comes from Nyanza and has our interests at heart. We can’t ignore him at all, he has assured us of massive support,” Mr Nyamweya said. Raila appointed Nyamweya as Trade Assistant minister although he is a Ford People MP.

“Very soon I am planning to make an official defection from Ford-People to ODM to ratify the support that we have for Raila,” he said.

Housing Assistant minister Margaret Wanjiru said: “Why are some people thinking that Raila cannot lead? We need to reflect on the good things that the premier has done to this country.” Political analyst Tom Mboya of Maseno University argues Raila has shed the radical image that rivals have used against him.

“He cuts the image of a sober leader who has the interest of all Kenyans at heart,” Mboya said. “He has also mastered the politics of tolerance and forgiveness.”


 

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