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Hope for small parties in Azimio as popularity grows

 

A multitude of Azimio supporters during a rally on March 12, 2022 at Jacaranda Grounds in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Buoyed by the formation of Azimio la Umoja coalition, fringe parties are flexing their political muscles as they brace for a contest with their “big brothers” in the August 9 polls. Although some dominant parties view them as spoilers, the decision by presidential hopeful Mr Raila Odinga and President Mr Uhuru Kenyatta to form the movement has emboldened the outfits. 

The move by Deputy President Dr William Ruto’s UDA to work with smaller parties under Kenya Kwanza has also given life to the outfits and at the same time sparked defections.

The unveiling of Mr Odinga as the Azimio la Umoja’s presidential flagbearer at the weekend only added the fringe parties, especially in his Nyanza backyard, more firepower. The parties claim they are now united for a purpose: to ensure Raila ascends to presidency.

Whereas they are working jointly with ODM and Jubilee to deliver a Raila president, they are also using the platform to chart their own path and expand their support.

In Nyanza and Western regions, the parties have been given a warm welcome and are viewed by Mr Odinga’s team as vital component in ensuring maximum voter turnout.

The development has seen the smaller parties win new allies, including veteran politicians unsure of winning the ODM ticket in the upcoming primaries.

Hope is also high for many of the parties that being part of a larger coalition has improved their national outlook. In Western, Mr Odinga’s team is optimistic that the smaller parties will play a vital role in countering attempts by Kenya Kwanza to get support from the region that has backed the ODM chief overwhelmingly in past elections.

The parties have lined up a series of events to drum up support for Mr Odinga while strengthening their own grassroots support.

Mr Odinga’s team is working concertedly with Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-Kenya) and Mr Cyrus Jirongo’s United Democratic Party. The parties are keen to eclipse and deny Mr Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford-Kenya and Mr Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Coalition as well as Dr Ruto’s UDA support.

And as the primaries draw nearer, the parties are increasingly gaining popularity, with more aspirants afraid of nominations outcomes in the dominant parties decamping to smaller outfits.

In Nyanza, the possibility of introducing zoning within Azimio is sending shivers in small parties. Yesterday, Kisumu West MP and member of DAP-Kenya, Mr Olago Aluoch, told The Standard the formation of the coalition was a major boost of their popularity of the smaller parties among the electorate. “The formation of the coalition has helped improve popularity of some of the parties and have given them the national platform,” said Olago.

He, however, noted that those who had opted to fly the ticket of the fringe parties had opted to take the route due to individual strengths and track records. Before the formation of the coalition, fringe parties that sought to challenge ODM were quickly branded as those sponsored by Dr Ruto. “The coalition has now erased the narrative of disloyalty that was being fronted against fringe parties,” said Mr Olago.

In Nyanza, the Green Congress Movement and Movement for Democracy and Growth are all backing Raila’s presidential bid.

MDG has joined the movement through OKA. In the past few weeks, the David Ochieng’-led party had been facing huge opposition from ODM leaders in Siaya who have been calling for a six-piece voting pattern in favour of ODM.

Former Ndhiwa MP Mr Agostinho Neto, who has been popularising GCM, said Azimio has given smaller parties a national platform. “We are still waiting to see how everything will unfold once the coalition’s documents are finalised. Our hope is that all parties will field their candidates to boost turnout,” said Mr Neto.

In his last visit to the region last week ahead of his unveiling as the coalition’s flagbearer, Raila also appeared to embrace the small parties and claimed that they will support candidates flying the Azimio flag.

In the last five days, a number of defections, including that of Kisii Senator and now governor hopeful Prof Sam Ongeri to DAP-Kenya have been witnessed. Former Rongo MP Mr Dalmas Otieno has decamped to Jubilee, to succeed Migori Governor Mr Okoth Obado. Although not a fringe party, Jubilee was unpopular in the region.

[Additional Reporting by Ndung’u Gachane and Anne Atieno] [email protected]

According to Mr Booker Omole, chairperson of Communist Party of Kenya, which wants to challenge ODM in Nyanza, a Bill pending in Parliament may hurt small parties.

“The Bill allows coalitions to field only a single candidate. Should that be the case, smaller parties will be swallowed by larger ones,” he said.

In the region, only People’s Democratic Party that is affiliated to Mr Obado is facing strong opposition and is struggling to find aspirants. The party is not part of Azimio and had been leaning towards the DP.

In Mt Kenya, Mr Jimi Wanjigi quit ODM to Safina, through which he intends to launch a presidential bid. Kiambu governor aspirant and current Senator Mr Kimani Wamatangi moved from Jubilee to UDA alongside Embu’s Mr Peter Njeru Ndwiga.

Also in UDA are Nyeri and Tharaka Nithi governors - Mr Mutahi Kahiga and Mr Muthomi Njuki respectively. Meanwhile, Nyeri governor hopeful Mr Peter Munyiri left PNU for Jubilee, while Kirinyaga’s Mr Peter Gitau has also decamped from PNU to Moses Kuria’s Chama Cha Kazi.

Nyeri parliamentary aspirant Ms Esther Wangari, who has been the face of CCK in Nyeri, joined Jubilee. Ms Wangari, who helped form the party alongside Mr Kuria, after being expelled from People’s Empowerment Party claimed upon forming CCK, Mr Kuria vowed not to seek elective position.

Politician Mr Njogu Barua is now in Jubilee after defecting from UDA to Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri’s The Service Party and then to Jubilee. Earlier, Mr Kiunjuri’s party also lost Nairobi Woman Rep aspirant Ms Wangui Ng’ang’a to Jubilee, but regained former Igembe North MP Mr Joseph M’Eruaki, who returned after a short sojourn at UDA.

[Additional Reporting by Ndung’u Gachane and Anne Atieno]