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Musalia Mudavadi’s limited choices as he fights for space in alliance

ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi addressed leaders allied to Kenya Kwanza Alliance from Western at his home at Mululu village in Vihiga county on Feb 25, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi faces several challenges in satisfying personal ambition and community expectations in Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Being a former Vice President, Mudavadi will find it difficult to fit into the alliance because it is becoming clear he may not get the number two position. With the likes of Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua rubbishing the idea of Mudavadi getting the position of DP, he will be banking on the performance of his party to get a good bargain.

That means he will rely on a post-election deal to argue his case, especially on the positions that his party will be allocated should Kenya Kwanza form the next government. Political analysts argue that having joined Ruto before entering a power-sharing deal, Mudavadi will most likely be confronted with “a take it or leave it” choice.

“So many UDA hawks like Kipchumba Murkomen, Rigathi Gachagua, Kimani Ichungwa and Susan Kihika, among others, are circling around Ruto, the party leader, and that makes it very difficult for Mudavadi,” says political analyst Martin Andati.

The ANC leader is known for his gentleman’s mien and majority of those interviewed doubt he will make any extreme demands and may prefer slow negotiations. Prof Macharia Munene of United States International University (USIU) says Mudavadi appears to be enjoying his politics but he is heavily disadvantaged because he is not the presidential candidate.

The retired USIU don also argues that the number of MPs that ANC leader has in the coalition are also outnumbered and that therefore leaves him heavily disadvantaged. So how will his Western backyard react should Mudavadi get crumbs or a very small piece of the pie? Ruto will definitely have some form of agreement with Mudavadi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula to offer them something they can dangle to their people so that they can vote for him.

“Bargaining is a routine process but it depends on what Mudavadi wants and what can be given to him,” says Prof Munene.

But there is a big possibility of voters in Mudavadi’s backyard rebelling if there is no guarantee that he will get what he wants. There in lies the challenge because there is no guarantee that he will get everything they expect him to get, but they will also be cognisant of the fact that he will be rewarded for the support he has offered.

And so is it a compromise Mudavadi will be prepared to make, despite the high expectations that the electorate have? If he insists that he wants to be number two, then that will not work out very well. It might be considered but it will not work out because of the vested interests and the big number of votes Ruto expects to get from the Mt Kenya region.

There are other positions that can be dangled, like the Speaker of the House, but how will Mudavadi himself or his support base take to such a downgrade? Former University of Eldoret lecturer Dr Kiprop Busienei says Mudavadi should by now be aware that he should freely discuss other positions in the coalition other than the number two slot.

But he also knows that given the positions he has held before, he will be put under a lot of pressure to go for nothing less. Both Macharia and Busienei agree that there is a lot pressure on somebody who has been in such offices as those previously occupied by Mudavadi because he is expected to go higher and achieve something bigger.

“But he can only achieve something bigger if he is running on his own and not hanging on somebody’s coat-tails,” says Prof Macharia.

Asked how Ruto will maneuvre to satisfy competing forces fighting for his attention, Prof Macharia described him as a very strong and intelligent politician. He says Ruto has the ability to manage egos, especially those in UDA, and he will therefore not only manage all of them but they will all come out smiling. Other analysts have argued that the position of Deputy President is not as crucial as some politicians would want to make it appear. Prof Gitile Naituli of Multi-Media University says the Mt Kenya region will for example vote for Ruto even if they don’t get the number two slot.

“Even if they are not given that position, they will still vote for him anyway and that is why there is a chance Mudavadi can still be the running mate,” said Prof Gitile.

He concurs with Prof Macharia that the office of DP does not have much influence, because all powers are vested in the Office of the President. They further argued that the impact the office will have should Mudavadi get it will depend on how much emotions it can arouse among his people.

“Otherwise he will just deliver the 500,000 votes which he garnered in the 2013 elections when he vied on a UDF ticket,” says Prof Macharia.

Andati argues that Mudavadi will most likely bag all parliamentary seats in Vihiga County but it will be very difficult for him in Kakamega.