Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Moi’s entry into Kibaki’s campaign has added only misery in the incumbent’s re-election bid

For President Mwai Kibaki, it will be a do-or-die battle as he seeks his second and final term. The deep-seated feeling in his main challenger, Raila Odinga of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) that the incumbent never reciprocated the support he gave him in the 2002 elections, is still a bone of contention between the two.

Claims also emerged that the government was behind the move to split ODM and support Odinga’s election as the party flag bearer in the hope that he would be easy to beat at the polls. However, it became apparent that Kibaki’s strategists miscalculated Odinga’s popularity.

The entry of the retired president Daniel Arap Moi into Kibaki’s campaign bandwagon has added more misery into the incumbent’s re-election bid. The former president who was expected to harvest the over 2.5 million votes from his Kalenjin community, has received massive resistance from ODM’s Pentagon member, William Ruto, winning the support of the community to Moi’s chagrin.

Vice-president Moody Awori was also expected to easily win votes from the Luhya community in Western Kenya, but the ODM tide has swept the region to an extent that winning the Funyula seat by the vice-president might even be a nightmare for the octogenarian. Former vice-president in Moi’s government Musalia Mudavadi and Odinga’s running mate has taken control of the region like thunder.

The ODM wave has also not spared the Muslim community; majority of whom have thrown their weight behind Odinga over claims that Kibaki’s administration had mistreated Muslims and deported genuine Kenyans to Ethiopia and other Arab countries over terrorism links.

Nomination rows also continue to jolt Party of National Unity (PNU)’s plans to upstage ODM with over 500 parliamentary and civic aspirants, mainly from NARC-Kenya demanding a meeting with Kibaki to discuss the nomination method by PNU and an assurance that the exercise will be free and fair.

Raila Odinga
The launch of Odinga’s presidential campaign at Uhuru Park in Nairobi last Saturday was indeed a show of might and the thousands who turned up for the rally, was a clear indication that Mwai Kibaki has to dig deeper into his vast experience if he has to remain in State House.

The big turn out was reminiscent of the National Rainbow Coalition euphoria of December 30, 2002 when Kibaki was sworn in as Kenya’s third president after confining the then ruling Kenya African National Union to the periphery of power for the first time in over 40 years?

The nomination turn out in ODM is also a cause of concern for Kibaki. The party’s bank account boasts of Ksh300m (sh7.5b) with over 1,290 parliamentary aspirants having picked ODM nomination forms for 210 slots in the constituencies and 151,490 in the civic seats.

Soon after Odinga was confirmed ODM presidential candidate, his poll ratings started a sharp upward climb at the expense of both Kibaki and Kalonzo Musyoka of ODM-Kenya. It is not by coincidence that polls show Odinga enjoying his greatest advantage among the youth who are the majority of voters — about seven million out of the 14 million registered voters.

The Standard and Nation media groups’ commissioned surveys show Odinga as Kenya’s favourite choice for the top seat.

The surveys showed Odinga popular among the youth and working population, while Kibaki is popular among older citizens and the working population.

The Odinga wave that has swept across six provinces in the country except Kibaki’s central province and Kalonzo Musyoka’s eastern, is a cause for worry with Kibaki’s key men warning against the belief that ‘Raila is unelectable’ was no longer tenable.

Odinga was believed to be too radical, divisive and unpredictable to sell easily outside his Luo Nyanza. But due to the defection to the party by former health minister Charity Ngilu, the president’s men have retreated to the drawing board to devise new strategies on how PNU can calm the Odinga wave. Musalia Mudavadi remained steadfast in ODM even after failing to secure the ticket.

Kalonzo Musyoka
He abandoned Odinga’s group to run his own presidential campaign on ODM-Kenya ticket. This has been reduced to a small regional grouping. Musyoka’s exit boosted Odinga’s stature as he embarked on driving his campaign with vigour.

Last year, Musyoka was regarded as the favourite to win the presidency having led in opinion polls, but his decision to hijack ODM-Kenya from the Raila group buried his hopes. Like Odinga, Musyoka is rooting for a federal system of government.

Ngilu’s decision to support Odinga instead of his clan mate, Kalonzo, was another clear indicator that the former foreign affairs minister was just but a joy rider. He is still optimistic of emerging winner on the homestretch, but only time will tell whether Kalonzo is warming to team up with PNU at the 11th hour.

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