The race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta is billing itself as a highly polarising contest that has already attracted many contestants, with 15 aspirants emerging 17 months to the General Election.
Already alliances are being formed and the crowded race, which started building momentum immediately President Kenyatta was sworn in for his final term in November 2017, is beginning to take shape.
Pundits believe the number of aspirants will eventually come down to smaller groupings that will lighten the political scene.
“Its quite unlikely that all those 15 or more aspirants will be on the ballot, some of them are pretenders to the throne. We are likely to have three formations eventually,” said Dr Kaburu Kinoti, leader of the Party for Peace and Development (PPD).
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Wiper Chairman Mutula Kilonzo Jnr agreed, saying he saw only three front runners.
Deputy President William Ruto has put his best foot forward as he mounts his first ever presidential bid.
Though still coy about his candidature, ODM leader Raila Odinga has hinted that he might give a fifth stab at the presidency next year. His allies, however, still see him as the man to beat at the ballot.
Raila’s March 2018 handshake with Uhuru is seen to have altered the political scene and reorganised the formations. His dalliance with the president could however have come with some political casualty as it emerged that his National Super Alliance (Nasa) brigade had moved on to form another alliance.
Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Amani National Congress’s (ANC) Musalia Mudavadi and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula have teamed up with Baringo Senator Gideon Moi to form the ‘Sacred Alliance’, with each seeking to lead the country.
Mukhisa Kituyi, who has been Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) for nine years, last week launched his bid for the top seat.
Dr Kituyi who once served as a Trade minister stepped down from the UN agency, where he was supposed to end his term in September to kickstart his campaign.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi are among those who have subtly hinted that they might be on the ballot. Others are second term governors who caught up with the reality of the end of their terms and are finding themselves senior to the other seats apart from the presidency.
Former Council of Governors Chair Wycliffe Oparanya, his counterparts Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Mwangi Wa Iria (Murang’a) have indicated their interests for the top seat.
Oparanya is ODM deputy party leader and is set to battle it out for the party’s ticket with other contestants, including Joho.
Kingi, who is the ODM chairman in Kilifi County, has advocated for a Coast party that he could use for his presidential bid. Dr Mutua, Prof Kibwana and Wa Iria are yet to indicate whether they are aligning themselves to any formation.
Prof Kinoti said eventually the formations will include one of Ruto with a group of politicians in UDA, another of Uhuru and Raila and the third of Kalonzo, Gideon, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula.
“Most of the other politicians will comfortably fit themselves into these groups and just a few like Dr Kituyi could find their names on the ballot if he is keen,” he said.
Having undergone a big fallout with President Kenyatta and squandered a possible endorsement by his boss, Ruto has laid down an elaborate plan to shore up his political base through regional political outfits.
In a well-scripted path with all eyes trained on 2022, the Ruto think tank has worked on avoiding the dangers that come with a monolithic party without small fall back parties.
The DP is using a strategy of ‘mop up every one and scatter none’ to catapult him to State House. Currently, at least seven parties are allied to him.
Apart from UDA, Kadu Asili and former governor Isaac Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM), Ruto has affiliation with former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri’s The Service Party (TSP), Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria’s People’s Empowerment Party (PEP) and Muungano Party associated with Governor Kibwana.
Others are People’s Democratic Party (PDP) associated with former South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara and New Democrats Party. Magara worked closely with Ruto in the wounded United Republican Party (URP) before they fell out, only for them to reunite late last year. Ugenya MP David Ochieng’s Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) Party has also been associated with the DP.
A ‘lunch meeting’ this past week between Kibwana, Mukhisa and Raila has however set tongues wagging, with questions of whether this could be a pointer to another formation.
In Raila’s fold, insiders are hinting at a possible alliance with the endorsement and blessings of President Kenyatta.
There has been talk of an alliance of Jubilee and ODM parties, although nothing concrete has been been formalised.
ODM Chairman John Mbadi yesterday said political alliances are inevitable in a polarised country like Kenya.
“As ODM, our focus now is to come up with a formidable team but we are definitely going to enter into an alliance with other political outfits as we head to 2022. History has taught us that coalitions emerge towards the electioneering period,” said Mbadi.
“Towards the end of the year, it will be very clear how we will equip the party for the 2022 presidential elections and that’s why next month, we embark on strengthening the party by filling vacancies from the grassroots level.”
Jubilee Vice Chairman David Murathe yesterday said plans are underway to form a new coalition with like-minded political party leaders for 2022 polls.
“We are going to have a new political formation. Definitely it will involve parties interested in building a united, peaceful Kenya post 2022. This was the same idea behind the collapse of the 13 political parties in 2017 to form Jubilee Party,” said Murathe.
“By then, ODM under the umbrella of Nasa was the problem to peace and through the Handshake, it came on board. We have enjoyed relative peace and stability.”
Murathe said since the DP and his team have bolted out of Jubilee Party and are driving the UDA agenda, the president’s wing will continue championing Jubilee agenda. “We have a pact with Kanu, we signed a cooperation with Wiper and we are engaging ODM with a view of creating a new formation. Despite the president retiring in 2022, he will remain the party leader and active in strengthening it,” he said.
Jubilee Party Secretary General Raphael Tuju said the sought alliance will not be ethnic based but for all Kenyans.
“We will definitely form an alliance with all Kenyans interested in peace and stability of this country as envisioned in the BBI. There is room for everyone and our agenda will not be us vs them,” said Tuju.
Kinoti observed that any arrangement made by Raila will be informed by his relationship with Uhuru towards 2022.
He said if the Sacred Alliance had the blessings of President Kenyatta and Raila realised that he was being played, it would herald a possible working between the ODM leader and Ruto.
“If Raila realises that he has been betrayed by President Kenyatta, he is likely to reunite with Ruto and work together for the 2022 race,” said Kinoti.
The Sacred Alliance has already hit the road running, with Kilonzo Jnr rooting for Kalonzo as the most likely leader of the formation.
“He (Kalonzo) will most likely be in a coalition. It is advisable to have both options open as a measure of precaution. This will inform our plan. For now, we are in the race,” said Kilonzo Jnr who is also the Senate minority leader.