A unique feature of the early campaigns for the 2022 presidential elections is the swapping of style, demeanour, image and strategy by the front runners Raila Odinga and William Ruto.
Recent media reports have pointed out Mr Odinga’s uncharacteristically methodical vote hunting, dominated by town hall-type meetings where he goes about picking up endorsements from key groups in different parts of the country.
The ODM leader has also traded his aggression of yesteryears for a cool, calm and collected demeanour.
For an heir apparent, Deputy President Ruto, who has campaigned in the last two elections as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s running mate, has looked unusually angry. While making rounds in a number of Mt Kenya counties last week, for example, he called the county governors all sorts of names for backing Mr Odinga’s presidential ambitions.
Dr Ruto has also been gung-ho in the early campaigns, chasing the public rally count and pulling the huge crowds so beloved of Mr Odinga in the past elections. The duo might yet have a style, demeanour, image and strategy makeover as the campaigns for the August 9 polls approach the homestretch.
But it is not only they who are struggling to change and adapt. In the ongoing pre-election coalition negotiations, ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi, the nice guy of Kenyan politics for many years, has emerged as the unlikely hardliner or lone ranger.
If the recent rhetoric by his close political allies such as Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and Lugari MP Ayub Savula is anything to go by, Mr Mudavadi must be driving quite a hard bargain in the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) talks. The impression created by the politicians around the former vice-president is that it is either Candidate Mudavadi or bust for OKA.
His appearance at a parallel meeting to the ones addressed by the other OKA principals – Kalonzo Musyoka and Gideon Moi – in Kajiado County last weekend predictably raised eyebrows.
Reports of the State House meetings convened earlier in the year by President Uhuru Kenyatta to negotiate a coalition involving parties in the now defunct National Super Alliance and the ruling Jubilee Party also tended to portray the Mudavadi camp as playing hardball.
The emerging image of Mr Mudavadi as a hardliner or lone ranger is a stark contrast to the one who has been at the centre of the most dramatic political compromises in the past decade.
In 2013, he reportedly signed a deal that would have seen him run for the top seat with the backing of would-be President Kenyatta. In 2002, then President Moi plucked him from the rebel ranks in Kanu and made him back the ruling party’s candidate Kenyatta.
President Kenyatta, explaining his aborted deal with Mr Mudavadi in 2013, famously blamed some ‘demons’ for having put pressure on him.
In the current pre-election coalition negotiations, it would appear it is Mr Mudavadi seeing the demons.
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