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Five emerging scenarios as top politicians rush to craft winning alliances ahead of polls

POLITICS
By Oscar Obonyo | October 10th 2021

The likelihood of ODM leader Raila Odinga eventually teaming up with OKA to challenge Ruto (L) is a high possibility. [File, Standard]

It is a race against time with barely 300 days to the next presidential poll as aspirants cobble together winning formulas of political players and coalitions.

And although two months ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta reiterated the ban on political gatherings as measure to check the spread of Covid-19, funerals, places of worship, private homes, roadside spaces and hotels remain active spaces for voter mobilisation.

In particular, political bigwigs that include Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and ANC's Musalia Mudavadi are having major engagements daily in what seems to be an overdrive gear.

Others on the campaign trail include party leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Gideon Moi (Kanu) as well as Ford-Kenya's Moses Wetang’ula, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and former UNCTAD boss Mukhisa Kituyi.

Parallel to these engagements are boardroom consultations geared at crafting new political marriages. One such marriage that has lately been on the lips of many involves the most sought-after political bride of Mt Kenya region, whose elders under the aegis of Mount Kenya Foundation (MKF) have so far consulted with ODM’s Raila, One Kenya Alliance (OKA) leaders and former Cabinet minister Cyrus Jirongo.

And when, during the consultative session with OKA leaders, Mudavadi extolled the strengths and credentials of Narc-Kenya party leader Martha Karua, including that the political leaders from the mountain region were “very lucky” to have her as one of their own, few doubted that he was indeed on a charm offensive.

The Sunday Standard has since established that Mudavadi and Karua are already warming up to each other, although the talks are still at an initial and very nascent stage.

Similarly, other OKA co-principals Gideon Moi and Kalonzo are understood to also be involved in talks to craft tickets as they jostle to run for the presidency.

The long term camaraderie between Raila and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth may well graduate into something more solid politically, if indications by some individuals allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Kieleweke wing of Jubilee Party is anything to go by.

There has also been talk of OKA and Mt Kenya Unity Forum, the team comprising Karua, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri looking to work together.

Among the touted line-ups include a possible joint ticket of Mudavadi and Karua to succeed President Uhuru, though other pairings are being considered.

Mount Kenya Unity Forum Leaders Martha Karua (C) and Moses Kuria (right). [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

A line-up that is yet to become public and which is still in discussion, it emerged yesterday, is one that has Karua and Mudavadi run on a joint ticket, supported by an 11 member council that will also include a number of political party leaders, a Cabinet secretary, some presidential aspirants and a former Chief Justice.

The 11 will form the membership of the National Redemption Council, similar to the Pentagon crafted by ODM  in 2007, whose members will only serve for a single term.

Other ongoing coalition-building efforts are being led by Ruto and other key political players. Most of the entities have not been firmed up, yet others are just starting. All in all, at least five scenarios could come into play at the ballot on the second Tuesday of August next year.  

 Sample the following scenarios:

Scenario One: Most pundits consider next year’s poll, a two-horse race between Ruto and Raila. The two are considered frontrunners courtesy of enjoying solid and enormous support in their backyards, besides a vast nationwide network, focus and steadfastness. In fact, according to United Democratic Alliance (UDA) national chairman, Johnstone Muthama, the two are the main combatants: “They have the political and financial muscle to do so, without hesitation unlike my former (Wiper) party leader, for instance,” he claims.

Perhaps, owing to their overconfidence, a third force is gradually building. ANC’s deputy party leader, Ayub Savula confirmed to The Sunday Standard that his party boss alongside other OKA leaders have been wooing Karua. And by yesterday, reports emerged that OKA and Mount Kenya Unity Forum were engaged in talks to work together.

The new formation plans to field Karua and Mudavadi on a joint ticket. Kalonzo is destined to serve as the group’s Chairman of the Council, which includes, among others senators Moi and Wetang’ula and Jirongo.

However, those that spoke to The Sunday Standard, denied such a deal had been arrived at. Savula dismissed it as “mischievous work of our rivals”, while Wiper’s Vice-Chairman, Mutula Kilonzo Jr, conceded to ongoing discussions between Karua’s team and OKA but termed the establishment of a redemption council as untrue.

“It is true we have been meeting, but this lineup is a fake product.  It is imprudent for anyone to craft such, especially at a time when all the presidential hopefuls are working on their bargaining power. This would completely stall negotiations,” says the Senate Minority Whip.

Wiper Vice-Chairman Mutula Kilonzo Jr. [File, Standard]

 Kiunjuri also said he was unaware of any such proposal.

“That is not something I am aware of. Before TSP gets into such an arrangement, we would have to discuss as a governing council and that has not happened so no one can say we have agreed to anything,” he said.

Sources close to the two formations suggest that an OKA-Mount Kenya Unity Forum ticket is geared at breaking the Ruto-Raila dominance in the Uhuru succession race. If it picks, it could force a runoff and thereby eventually bargain to throw support behind either of the two candidates. Alternatively, the coalition could gain momentum and emerge victors.

Scenario Two: The likelihood of the ODM leader eventually teaming up with OKA leaders to challenge Ruto’s presidential bid is a high possibility. In fact, it is the kind of scenario that the President is believed to be pushing for with the help of the Mount Kenya Foundation.

Last Thursday, Jirongo spoke to it too, when he stated “we are willing to support Raila’s presidential bid as long as there is a fair process of choosing the best among the rest of the aspirants (from OKA)”.  The import of this is that the ODM leader should be able to support others as well.

Scenario Three: The exact opposite, where the OKA chiefs team up with Ruto to challenge Raila is also a possibility, especially if they are compelled or crudely cornered by the powers-that-be to back Raila. One only needs to reflect on Jirongo’s threats last Thursday to comprehend that a protest vote is not farfetched.     

Scenario Four: Yet still, the scenario prophesised by Bishop David Oginde of Christ is the Answer Ministries (CITAM) last October during the launch of the BBI that Ruto and Raila will be in one political camp in 2022 could also come true. This would be in the form of a protest vote by the Orange brigade, should the President make an about-turn and throw his support behind the OKA team.

This would be a curious one, though, considering that only last week, Raila ruled out working with Ruto because of differences in ideology and that the DP had already kicked off his campaign. In July, Ruto similarly brushed aside the possibility of teaming up with Raila claiming he considered the former PM the “sole solid competitor” without whom “there would no serious race to State House”.

Scenario Five: In the event efforts to craft coalitions flop, then the unlikely scenario would unfold – that is for the individual candidates, Ruto, Raila, Mudavadi, Kalonzo, Gideon, Mukhisa and Wetang’ula and other aspirants that have declared their candidacies to each vie for the top seat. Savula and Wambua do not rule out this possibility as they maintain their candidates “could go all the way to the ballot”. The same is true about Ruto and Raila. 

With just 10 months to the polls, the current coalition building is relatively late and slower as compared to past instances.

Although Narc coalesced about three months to the polls, the journey kicked off more than a year earlier with the so-called breakfast meetings of DP’s Mwai Kibaki, Charity Ngilu of SDP and Ford-K’s Kijana Wamalwa. They were later joined by Raila and Kalonzo of the LDP, transforming into Narc which swept the boards in the 2002 polls. 

Similarly, the ODM, started crystallising in 2005 after successfully rallying Kenyans to reject the Draft. The principals almost immediately formed the Pentagon, which went on to register phenomenal poll results in 2007, including, according to indications, the presidency.   

The collaboration between Uhuru and Ruto, who were party leaders of The National Alliance (TNA) and United Republican Party (URP), similarly started off early in April 2012,  ending up with the signing of a partnership in December.

-Additional reporting by Allan Mungai

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