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Top politicians stare at uncertain future ahead of poll

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his running mate Martha Karua when they met the Azimio Council at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) Nairobi.  [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

More than 100 politicians affiliated to the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition party could have their dreams shattered before the August 9 election.

The party's topmost organ yesterday resolved to cut short their political careers.

A meeting of Azimio council chaired by presidential candidate Raila Odinga, tasked constituent parties to compel their candidates considered 'weak' to quit in favour of stronger rivals in the same coalition.

The council, whose members projected solidarity as they delivered a joint press statement, said they arrived at the plan following reports on their ongoing campaigns.

The strategy is working towards getting Azimio majority of elected seats, more critically in Parliament where a minority would complicate matters for a sitting president.

"The council discussed and approved a strategy to synergise the strength brought by each party to the coalition by rationalising and harmonising candidates in all elective positions and mandated each constituent party to implement the strategy," Azimio's secretary general Junet Mohammed said.

The Saturday Standard has also established that Azimio will employ a two-pronged strategy to arrive at a single candidate for each elective seat. In the first instance, parties will have to convince their respective candidates to shelve their ambitions. In the event that fails, the council will step in, a plan that could come with incentives such as government appointments.

The coalition party has conducted a series of opinion polls, the result of which spelled doom in some areas where Azimio has multiple candidates competing against a single candidate from the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

The strategy, which mirrors zoning, will not only take root in cosmopolitan areas where leading coalitions have a realistic chance at clinching seats, but also in their respective strongholds.

It will apply in all regions but Deputy President William Ruto's backyard within Rift Valley.

In the plan, ODM candidates will earn preference in areas considered strongholds such as Nyanza, Coast and parts of Western. Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi's Democratic Action-Party Kenya will also have a share in Western.

Jubilee will be favoured in Mt Kenya and in counties that make up Northern Kenya, with lower Eastern reserved for Wiper.

In Nairobi, where the strategy has taken root, Jubilee, ODM and Wiper have divided the richest county at the Member of National Assembly tier in a 8:8:1 ratio in their plan to win all 17 constituencies. Azimio has endorsed a single candidate for nearly all of the capital's elective seats and is expected to fully implement its strategy.

Areas where Azimio could experience friendly fire include Kisii, where Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati (ODM) faces opposition from Senator Sam Ongeri (Democratic Action Party-Kenya) and Chris Obure (Jubilee). Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Machogu is UDA's candidate.

The same could play out in Nyamira, where incumbent Amos Nyaribo (United Progressive Party) faces Timothy Bosire (ODM) and Ben Momanyi (Wiper). Ruto's United Democratic Alliance has fronted Walter Nyambati. 

But the regions will not be exclusively reserved to respective parties as Azimio plans to prioritise popularity of their candidates, which the coalition believes is unlikely to change given that campaigns have entered the homestretch.

In Kirinyaga, Azimio hopes to field either Charles Kibiru (Jubilee) or Muriithi Kagai (Narc-Kenya), as its candidate, with the race for the Laikipia governor seat reserved for either incumbent Ndiritu Muriithi (Jubilee) or Gitonga Kabugi (Narc-Kenya).

Azimio also wants to field a joint candidate in Vihiga race that pits Governor Wilber Otichilo (ODM) against Senator George Khaniri (United Democratic Party), both of Azimio.

The same will be cascaded down to other elective seats.

Yesterday's meeting comes in the wake of hostility within Azimio, as evidenced in Marsabit County, where chaos reigned after two Azimio rival factions affiliated with Governor Mohamud Ali and Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani clashed at Raila's rally. A similar situation was witnessed at a rally in Machakos when governor seat aspirants Wavinya Ndeti and Nzioka Waita clashed. 

Zoning has been a hot potato within Azimio and yesterday's decision has far-reaching implications.

For some time, small parties have opposed the strategy, arguing it would hurt the overall turnout and Raila's chances at victory. They also claimed the tack could claw back gains on democracy and free will.

Wamunyinyi's DAP-K has previously opposed plans to only reserve Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties for the party. In Mt Kenya, Narc Kenya aspirants have refused to play second fiddle to their Jubilee rivals.

But there are those who believe Azimio's plan is the only viable option to secure majority of seats.

David Murathe, the Jubilee Party vice chair, said the coalition is looking at their support bases and won't allow friendly fire to cost them various seats. “Azimio is determined to win the presidency and as many governor, Senate, National Assembly and MCA seats," Murathe said.