Political parties in Mt Kenya East are angling for a supremacy battle ahead of next year's general elections.
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi’s Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) and the Party of National Unity (PNU) associated with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya are among the parties keen to cash in on the vote-rich Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties.
The DEP and PNU are some of the parties that are more visible in Meru, as both Kiraitu and Munya eye a slice of the political cake.
But not to be outshone, former CS Mwangi Kiunjuri has paid Meru and Tharaka Nithi some visits in the recent past, with the latest visit seeing him open The Service Party office at Gatimbi in Central Imenti sub-County.
Mr Kiunjuri was accompanied by the party Secretary-General Mwenda Makathimo, who will make a second stab at the Central Imenti parliamentary seat.
East Africa Legislative Assembly MP Mpuru Aburi also has his National Ordinary People Empowerment Union (Nopeu), which he has been popularizing in Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties.
But Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) has also made major strides in the larger Meru region.
Ruto celebrated the election of UDA candidate Simon Kiambi in the recent Kiagu Ward by-election in Central Imenti, where he also opened a party office at Chaaria market in his recent two-day visit of Meru and Tharaka Nithi.
The UDA party boasts of support of at least seven of the nine MPs in the region, including Senator Mithika Linturi, who with Central Imenti MP Moses Kirima led the campaigns for Kiambi's candidature.
DP Ruto has discouraged the formation of what he labelled ‘small’ parties in the region and asked residents and various potential candidates to embrace UDA ahead of the 2022 polls.
The DP has frequented Meru calling on the community to rally behind him to achieve unity and development.
He cautioned that the formation of small parties would have the effect of fostering disunity of the people.
"The idea of divisions into small parties will cause tribal divisions in Kenya. I am appealing to Tharaka Nithi (people) to unite in a national party with a vision for Kenya and which can form the government that will improve livelihoods," he said.
Kiraitu, while launching the DEP or the Bus party, announced it would be the vehicle to champion the interests of the community and expressed confidence it will bag all elective seats next year.
Flanked by his deputy Titus Ntuchiu, Party Secretary-General Mugambi Imanyara and other officials, Kiraitu also hosted almost half of the 68 MCAs, with many of the reps saying they will defend their seats on its ticket.
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Kiraitu said they would use the numbers to ensure Meru is given respect in national politics.
“We have more votes than many (counties), and we should be walking with confidence,” he said.
Kiraitu was categorical that the party will only rally the community to support the presidential candidate who assures them he will take care of its development interests.
Ntuchiu said they would campaign vigorously to win all elective positions apart from the presidency.
"The strength of a party is hinged on elected members. We are happy MCAs have boarded the Bus, and we welcome all the people," he said.
Linford Mutembei, who chairs the Mount Kenya Youth, said, while there were several parties in Meru, three stand out as the main players.
“There will be three serious political parties in Meru; PNU, Bus, and Jubilee. But the PNU will be a bigger role because of CS Munya, whose political star is on the rise owing to his position in the current political dispensation, age, and energy,” said Mutembei.
But Mutembei noted that residents would be keen to elect leaders based on their performance and not party affiliations.