|Governor Peter Munyua (Photo:File/Standard)|
By The Standard on Sunday Reporter
Nairobi, Kenya: The heightened political rivalry witnessed in last year’s general election between TNA and APK in Mt Kenya East is brewing, even as Meru residents await the Supreme Court’s decision on whether they have to go back to the polls to elect a governor.
Although former Governor Peter Munya has lodged an appeal at the highest court challenging the decision by the Court of Appeal to nullify his election, political temperature is rising in the county, just in case fresh polls are called.
If the electorate are sent to the ballot by the Supreme Court, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA will lock horns with Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi’s APK in a repeat duel for political supremacy in the sub-region as was witnessed in last year’s election.
The contest between Munya, who was the APK candidate, and former Assistant Minister Dr Kilemi Mwiria, the TNA flag-bearer, was decided by a margin of 3,436 votes.
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Battle lines are now drawn as key figures from the two political adversaries plot to rekindle their rivalry, which could have more significance than a mere contest between TNA and APK.
The battle is also seen as one between Kiraitu and Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki, who is expected to lead the TNA crusade, and who has emerged as the possible successor to Kiraitu in the sub-region’s political leadership, given his proximity to President Kenyatta.
Sharing the spoils
Mt Kenya East consists of Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties.
Sources have disclosed to The Standard on Sunday that key players in the two camps have been holding secret meetings to strategise on the possibilities of a by-election.
The spoils were evenly shared in the close contest in the last election, with APK clinching both the Governor and Senator’s position (held by Kiraitu) but winning only two parliamentary seats. TNA clinched six parliamentary positions.
ODM capitalised on the heated rivalry, winning two seats. An independent candidate won another parliamentary seat.
However, the political ground now appears more interesting. Munya, and by extension APK, has the support of all Members of County Assembly (MCAs) and will be counting on their network if a by-election is called.
On the other hand, seven of the county’s nine MPs have strongly opposed Munya and will be seeking to oust him in a contest that will also boil down to popularity battle between MPs and MCAs.
The chairman of Meru Parliamentary Group, Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi, who deputises Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki as the TNA point-man in Mt Kenya East sub-region, says they are willing to battle “whichever angle the contest takes”.
“This will be a renewed contest between the Bus (APK) and TNA, and we are ready to face off. Kiraitu and Munya should be prepared for a bruising one this time round,” said Linturi.
The Igembe South MP dismissed the new-found relationship between Munya and the MCAs, sensationally claiming that the county representatives are only showing their loyalty to the Governor to pay back for the business deals they have enjoyed under his administration.
“We know the MCAs are among the top beneficiaries of the irregularities witnessed in Munya’s administration and that is why they are throwing their support behind him, but their day of reckoning is coming. We hope we will have the by-election so that as MPs we can show them where they belong,” Linturi said.
Kindiki, who is now the senior most politician in the region (by virtue of the office he holds) could also be in line to renew his political rivalry with Kiraitu, in what some see as succession battles.
Though Kiraitu has kept a low profile since losing to Kindiki in the contest for the Senate’s position of Majority Leader, the by-election will provide him a platform to prove his grip of the region which he has almost politically controlled for decades.
And even though the by-election will be for the electorate of Meru, it will certainly have a large bearing on the political future of the region, and show political fortunes between Kiraitu and Kindiki, who hails from the neighbouring Tharaka Nithi, but who is seen as the region’s next kingpin given his close relationship with both the President and Deputy President William Ruto.
“This is a contest that Kiraitu cannot afford to lose to TNA. If he does, it could as well be a political death sentence for him as the regional kingpin and his party. Already, Kindiki is causing ripples and his star is rising given his close ties with the President, where he is strategically positioned,” said an MP from the region, who declined to be named “to avoid straining my relationship with either camps”.
Kindiki is coy about involving himself in the political affairs of neighbouring Meru county, but could be forced by party circumstances to lead the TNA brigade as he did in the Makueni and Bomachoge by-elections.
“I would have wanted not to participate in the affairs of Meru. I would also urge the President not to get involved as he might entangle himself in regional matters,” said Kindiki.