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Ruto, Raila and Mudavadi to face off in Western mini polls

By Standard Team | March 2nd 2021
ANC Matungu candidate Peter Nabulindo (left) and Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala in Mayoni, Matungu constituency yesterday. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

The two Western by-elections in Matungu and Kabuchai have turned into a popularity contest for top politicians eyeing State House in the 2022 General Election.

Focus in the race has shifted to Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, as their candidates face off in the polls set for Thursday.

Dr Ruto, who has fielded candidates in both elections under the United Democratic Movement (UDA), is seeking to gauge his popularity after making forays in the region that has at least 1.9 million registered voters.

The outcome of the two by-elections will be crucial for his presidential bid, as it will be a measure of his penetration in the area ahead of the 2022 elections.

Massive support

On the other hand, Raila has in the previous elections enjoyed massive support from the region and would be keen to win the seat as a confirmation that his support base is still intact.

The ODM campaigns are being spearheaded by deputy party leader and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

Yesterday aspirants mounted vigorous last-minute campaigns to woo voters on the final campaign day.

In Kabuchai, the race has narrowed down to Ford-Kenya candidate Majimbo Kalasinga and UDA’s Evans Kakai. ODM did not field a candidate for this seat. 

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, accompanied by MPs and ward reps allied to Ford-Kenya traversed the constituency drumming up support for Mr Kalasinga, while Ruto’s allies, led by MPs John Waluke (Sirisia), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), Mwambu Mabonga (Bumula) and Fred Kapondi (Mt Elgon) campaigned for Kakai.

Others in the race are Gasper Wafubwa (Independent), David Kibiti (Green Movement party), Amos Wekesa (Federal Party), Jeremiah Marakia (UDP) and Stephen Barasa (MDP) and Peter Kapanga (Independent).

Candidates have pledged to improve infrastructure, revamp the education sector as well as agriculture (coffee farming) if elected.

“This election is not about Kabuchai, but between me (Mr Wetang’ula) and DP Ruto. This is the time I need you the most; do not embarrass me by not voting for Kalasinga. A vote for Kalasinga is a vote for me, which puts me at the negotiating table at the national politics come 2022,” said Wetang’ula while campaigning at Mukuyuni market.

Wetang’ula hails from Kabuchai Constituency. The seat fell vacant following the death of James Lusweti on December 5, last year.

Kalasinga, who holds a Diploma in Food Production from Egerton University, asked voters to elect him so that he could complete projects started by the former MP.

Speaking during the campaigns, Waluke said he was confident that UDA would win the seat.

“We won this seat long time ago and what is remaining is for the voters to confirm our victory at the ballot,” said the Sirisia MP. Mr Kakai, the UDA candidate, has promised to bring meaningful development to the area.

David Kibiti, a teacher and former Chief Officer of Public Administration, said he would focus on improving education standards locally, while Mr Kapanga, a Geomatic Engineer said he was the sure bet to lead Kabuchai. Other candidates were conducting door to door campaigns.

Kabuchai has 56,000 voters and the issues affecting the constituency include extreme poverty, unemployment, cattle rustling, water shortage and crime.

On Saturday, while campaigning for the ODM’s candidate in Matungu, Raila rallied the voters to back former area MP David Were as a confirmation of the party’s strength in the region.

Mr Mudavadi, who has declared interest in the presidency, is seeking to consolidate support in his perceived backyard.

The two leaders made an agreement not to field candidates against each other in the mini polls. The duo has roped in Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka and Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi in the campaigns they have framed to be the beginning of an alliance for the 2022 contest.

Matungu Constituency, whose seat fell vacant after the death of Justus Murunga, has five wards with 116 polling stations.

The voting pattern appears to be shifting, even as the race shapes up into a battle pitting Raila, Musalia and Ruto.

All of them have toured Matungu to drum up support for their candidates; Were (ODM), Peter Nabulindo (ANC) and Alex Lanya (UDA).

Besides political parties, other factors that could tilt the equation in the race include clan politics and the 2022 succession race.

Other candidates in the race are Charles Kasamani (United Democratic Party), Paul Achayo (Movement for Democracy and Growth) and Faida Auma (Maendeleo Chap Chap).

Carry the day

Independent candidates are Murunga’s widow Christabel Jane Murunga and son Eugene Murunga Ambwere, Bernard Wakoli, Gregory Atoko, Kevin Borry Nectus, Wilberforce Lutta, Athman Wangara, Anzelimo Kongoti and Samuel Munyekenye.

ANC’s Nabulindo is optimistic that he will carry the day should the clan card play out, although both he and UDA’s Lanya come from the dominant Abashitsetse clan.

Wakoli and Were are from the minority sub-clans of Abamurono and Nyaboro.

So far, Nabulindo, Lanya and Were have emerged as front-runners in the race.

Nabulindo is pledging to focus on education and equitable distribution of resources.

Were, who resigned last year as the chairman of the board of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), says there is unfinished business from his previous term and Murunga’s, which he intends to complete.

Strong statement

Yesterday, ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula said a win by ANC would be a strong statement that western region is fully behind Mudavadi’s presidential bid.

“Matungu is a competition between Oparanya and Mudavadi. We will ensure we take the seat so that we raise the ratings of Mudavadi. The election is not just about Matungu, but about the people of Western determining their destiny ahead of 2022,” said Savula.

However, ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna and ANC nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said the winner would be the candidate who best expresses himself on how he will tackle local issues.

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