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Kenya: Why Nasa Line Up Is More Than Just a 2013 Rematch

April 28, 2017 6:19 AM
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We have been here before. Nearly four years ago today, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka faced Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto in the 2013 presidential race.

The result was a disputed victory for the incumbent pair that took the Supreme Court to resolve.

Moses Wetang'ula, who was yesterday proposed for one of the deputy premier cabinet secretary's positions, was also on the Raila-Kalonzo side.

So the naming of the same team to fly the opposition flag means August 8 is a rematch of 2013.

But that is as far as the similarities go. Today's changed circumstances mean the race will be a lot more competitive.

There are a number of reasons for this. First is that being incumbents, Uhuru and Ruto must take responsibility for what is right and what is wrong in Kenya today.

They have documented many of their achievements in the recent past, notably in the portal,

But the two will also take the blame for what is wrong in Kenya today.

Two issues will keep coming up; corruption and the high cost of living.

Many Kenyans today are facing hard economic times with food prices hitting the roof.

The current drought may be to blame but Jubilee promised in their manifesto that no Kenyan will starve for lack of food.

If there is one single emotional issue that can be used to mobilise voters, then it is the struggling economy that has seen thousands of Kenyans lose jobs and livelihoods. This weapon can only be used by the opposition.

In 2013, Uhuru and Ruto used the crimes against humanity cases against them to galvanise their bases.

Indeed, this was the single most important factor that propelled the pair to victory.

So what else is different and how is it likely to affect the outcome on August 8?

This year, the opposition alliance has two additional players on their side in the names of Musalia Mudavadi, the Amani National Congress leader and Isaac Ruto, the Bomet governor who is also leader of Chama Cha Mashinani.

While Musalia split the opposition vote by going it alone in 2013, Ruto was part of the Jubilee defensive wall in the Rift Valley.

What value do the two bring to Nasa? Let us look at the Bomet governor first.

The net worth of his entry into Nasa is largely a symbolic one as it creates a bandwagon effect among voters that the alliance is a broadening coalition with real chances of sweeping to victory.

By winning over a Rift Valley leader sharing a name with the regional kingpin and Deputy President William Ruto, to boot, Nasa has managed to diffuse the singular stranglehold by Jubilee by carving out a stake.

This is particularly significant because Governor Ruto comes from the populous Kipsigis community with an on-and-off rivalry with the Nandi.

The most populous of the 11 or so communities under the Kalenjin conglomeration, local politicians often stoke a sentiment of playing second fiddle despite their numbers and economic might.

While it is expected that DP Ruto's say will still hold sway in the region in August, seeing as he is perceived as being a step away from the presidency, one can't write off a residual effect of having a second principal and a local one at that.

Then there is Governor Ruto's own charisma which will come in handy in the campaigns, not only in the region, but also across the country where his dramatic, humorous speaking prowess will come in handy.

A man with the gift of breaking down weighty national issues into street pander that resonates with the hoi polloi, the politician also comes into the coalition with a real reformer's credentials as a man who stood up to President Moi at a time he was seen as a deity.

Ruto's arrival in Nasa also helps to give the alliance a national image.

Before his entry, Nasa was basically a western-eastern-coast alliance.

The South Rift in 2013 voted almost to a man for the United Republican Party, then led by DP Ruto and a key partner in the Jubilee alliance.

However, grumbling in the region about its share in the national government started soon after the cabinet was formed when it emerged that the North Rift, where the DP comes from, had more positions yet they had fewer votes.

This discontent has seen South Rift vote for anti-Jubilee candidates in by-elections in the last four years.

In the Kericho senate by-election last year, the DP had to literary go down on his knees to beg for the Jubilee man Aron Cheruiyot to win the poll.

It is this discontent that Nasa hopes to exploit as the weak link in trying to breach the Jubilee defensive wall in the Rift Valley.

The only time in recent history when his vote rich western bloc had a near universal agreement on a political course was in 2002 when Michael Wamalwa was Mwai Kibaki's running mate.

Since then, there has been no single politician who has commanded total loyalty in the region.

Musalia, Wetang'ula and Eugene Wamalwa have been pretenders to the throne without much success.

This has seen the region become a popular hunting ground for swing votes, both in 2007 and 2013.

In 2007, the vote was split between Raila and Kibaki. In 2013, Raila scored most of it, followed by Musalia and Uhuru.

With Musalia now in Nasa it means there is a high possibility of the western vote going into one basket.

There is no doubt that western wanted Musalia to be on the presidential ticket. Now that he is not, what is the likely impact?

There is a possibility of voter apathy. When turnout is low, the party that is likely to benefit is Jubilee.

Indeed, the feeling on the ground is that even though Nasa supporters were hoping for Musalia to be on the ticket, they will not abandon the alliance if he is not.

"We do not want to scuttle the grand march by Nasa to dislodge Jubilee from power in the August polls," Mr David Malala, Kakamaga ANC regional coordinator said yesterday.

However, the Nasa leadership will need to campaign extra hard to ensure a high voter turnout in the region.

If Nasa can manage to bring out the vote in Western and hold onto its other strongholds, then Jubilee will be in a lot of trouble.

Look at it this way. In 2013, Musalia scored 353,858 votes in Western.

The number of votes that pushed Uhuruto above the 50 per cent plus one constitutional threshold to avoid a run-off in 2013 was just about 10,000.


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