Major tell-tale signs why Azimio coalition may not survive for long

As the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) winds up its membership recruitment drive at the coast today, questions are being asked about the future of the Azimio One Kenya coalition.

Many political pundits argue there is every likelihood that the coalition, which is composed of ODM, Wiper, Jubilee, Kanu, DAP-K and Narc Kenya, among others, will not survive for long.

It is the alliance that ODM leader Raila Odinga unsuccessfully ran for the 2022 presidential poll, narrowly losing to President William Ruto in a hotly contested election.

Analysts point at the growing calls for Raila to vie for president again in 2027 as a major telltale sign of what may be awaiting the Azimio coalition sooner than later.

Although the ODM leader has himself dismissed “Raila for President 2027’ calls from the likes of Mombasa Governor Abdullswamad Nassir and his Kilifi counterpart Gideon Mung’aro, there is every indication that he has indeed kicked off that campaign.

Impending split

And therein lurks the danger for Azimio’s survival because other key stakeholders, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua, could soon create a great deal of noise in the coalition asking for Raila to support them instead of making another stab.

Former Cabinet Secretary Franklin Bett, who was in ODM from 2008, is among those who have a strong feeling that Raila will run again because of the political activity, statements and tactical moves that he is currently making and that Azimio will not be around for long.

“You read a sense of a man preparing to go for it and so the statements we hear from close allies that he will run and him distancing himself is just playing with the minds of the competitors and supporters as they buy time,” says Bett.

He agrees that Kalonzo and his followers could feel betrayed by Raila because of the commitments he made in 2022 to support the Wiper leader but adds that the realities of politics in the country may force the former to think again.

The biggest problem for Kalonzo is his narrow support base that is mainly only in Ukambani as compared to the man Kenyans call “Baba" (Father) who has made a name for himself almost everywhere in the country.

Bett says Raila has a fanatical following from Busia in western Kenya to the coast where he is currently visiting, Nairobi, the Maa nation and other parts of the country apart from his own Nyanza backyard.

“I’m seeing Kalonzo still joining Raila in a revamped Azimio, probably with a different name if a deal is hammered early to agree on how they will share power, but our friend Martha Karua cannot collapse into anybody because of the hardline position she takes and her even weaker political base,” added Bett.

Political analyst Martin Andati also argues that all indicators point at Azimio receding gradually and fading away with new realignments probably emerging as the 2027 presidential campaign takes shape.

He thinks there is every likelihood that Azimio will not survive for long because “Raila is campaigning like elections are going to happen tomorrow” and his strong allies are also insisting that he must run.

Unlike Bett, the pundit does not see Kalonzo playing second fiddle again in 2027 because he and Karua will exit Azimio the moment Raila announces that he will run again.

That will complicate matters for Raila and his ODM allies because getting more strong partners to form another giant coalition will become a herculean task, and those departing Azimio could also complicate matters further by forming a third force.

To worsen matters, Uhuru Kenyatta, a strong cog in Azimio’s 2027 hopes, could also exit and concentrate on re-orgainsing his Mt Kenya region political base that currently appears to be rudderless because of the ongoing fights against Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

Andati says there is talk that Raila is considering going with former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya as his running mate in 2027, a ticket that will not have even a lean chance to win an election.

“However unpopular William Ruto will be in 2027, if ODM runs Raila with Oparanya, with Kalonzo also definitely being on the ballot possibly with Eugene Wamalwa as we hear, then the current president will win,” says Andati.

That means the two Azimio splinter groups will embarrassingly lose, a scenario last seen in the 1992 presidential election when a very unpopular President Daniel arap Moi won with only 36 percent.

Another danger of Azimio splintering, is that there is a possibility of President Ruto doing what President Kibaki did in 2007, when Kalonzo ran, surprisingly putting up a spirited and well financed campaign and later joined government when a united opposition could have easily won.

“You can have Raila running but they put some money on Kalonzo to also run and split the votes. Both will lose to William Ruto and he will do a coalition,” adds Andati.

The analyst, however, thinks Ruto is aware that the Mt Kenya region is slippery and may not be fully behind him and that is why he is very keen on the western Kenya vote through his close association with Speaker Moses Wetang'ula and Musalia Mudavadi, thus weakening Azimio even further.

Analysts say the problem is the Mt Kenya region has so far neither embraced Raila nor Kalonzo but appear to have gone back to Uhuru Kenyatta without accepting his so called handshake brother as the alternative.

And so Raila’s handlers should be telling him that he should stop relying on the little or nothing Azimio can do for him in the region and instead do as much campaigning in the region as he should to make more traction come 2027.

Prof Peter Kagwanja of African Policy Institute says the emergence of the Karua-led Kamwene forum will not have any major impact on the Azimio coalition but advices Raila to apply a different strategy by visiting villages and trading centres in the Mt Kenya region.

He says Raila should speak directly to the people instead of using proxies like Peter Kenneth, David Murathe, Maina Kamanda and Kikuyu elders, among others.

“There is a fallout within the Jubilee party which means Azimio will not be factor in the region even if it survives but they could have won the elections last time had they hired agents to protect their vote,” says Kagwanja.

The scholar says there is no way Raila can win even if 50 percent of Kikuyu don’t vote for Ruto because he has not worked hard in the past to get hold of that vote.

He argues that the current fallout in Kenya Kwanza will be important for the Raila team to take advantage of but they must be wiser and go for the vote because voting is a practical and not an ideological affair.

They must also ask themselves how Ruto got Mt Kenya when the Kikuyu and Kalenjins have been at each other’s throat for many decades and had never embraced each other politically.

He says the only means that contrary to the widely held view, the Kikuyu can vote for anybody as long as the candidate shows he or she can satisfy their interests and that is why the likes Tom Mboya survived on mainly Kikuyu votes.

“I don’t know much about the Azimio challenges but Raila’s problem appears to be he did not invest in understanding Mt Kenya or Kikuyu politics because apart from the hype of him climbing the mountain, he never had a serious campaign,” says Kagwanja.

Kagwanja says President Ruto is reported to have made 841 trips to Murang'a alone by the date of election in 2022, meaning that it is not all about how strong the coalition is but also about the vote-hunting strategy used by the candidate.

“Raila has the goodwill but he will never understand Mt Kenya unless he changes his approach. Kamau wa Raila singing Mau Mau songs cannot help because people are now singing Mugithi. No younger generations know those things. Raila should have better advisors,” says Kagwanja.

Azimio is also doomed in the Mt Kenya region because the Kikuyu feel marginalised in the coalition, hence the emergence of groups like the Kamwene Forum and President Kenyatta’s increasing popularity.

Central vote

Kagwanja says it appears now that the person they chose to support and rejected Uhuru is not performing. The voters in the region are beginning to think about the former president but things will change should an alternative show up.

It is also clear that Uhuru is more interested in revamping Jubilee than about the fortunes of Azimio and will not shed a tear if it collapsed even tomorrow.

“He will like his party Jubilee to be revamped so that when other people are counting money from the Registrar of Political Parties, he will also be doing the same. It is political entrepreneurship. Jubilee used to get over Sh500 million money in 2021 when they had 177 MPs,” adds Kagwanja. 

By AFP 2 hrs ago
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