Raila Odinga's grip on Coast weakened as William Ruto's poll strategy pays off

Gladys Chepkorir

Supporters of Mkomani MCA candidate Gladys Chepkorir (UDA) protest after she was denied the certificate despite winning in the results announced by Nyali Constituency Returning Officer John Oletaiswa.


Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

 Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party presidential candidate Raila Odinga may have won the vote battle in Coast, but President-elect William Ruto made significant inroads in the region the former considers his stronghold.

Dr Ruto and his campaign team systematically executed an elaborate strategy to get 336,478 votes in the region’s six counties of Mombasa, Lamu, Tana River, Kwale, Kilifi and Taita Taveta.

The tally was an increase from the 287,606 Jubilee Party—under which President Kenyatta and DP Ruto won the presidency—got from the region in 2017, as well as from the 158,083 votes the two garnered in the 2013 poll.

The plan involved winning over key regional leaders to Dr Ruto’s side and planting his allies in strategic positions to checkmate the traditional kingpins.

He also rolled out ground operations that included so-called economic forums and allowing nascent affiliate parties to sprout without the demand that they merge with his United Democratic Movement (UDA).

Political fatigue

In his rallies, the DP had accused Mr Odinga of being out of touch with his supporters from the region and alienating them.

Additionally, increasing political fatigue by a section of Mr Odinga’s traditional supporters and the success of independent candidate Feisal Bader, whom Dr Ruto was backing, in the Msambweni by-election also built momentum for Dr Ruto in the battle for the hearts and minds of the residents.

In the latest polls, Mr Odinga garnered 649,913 votes, a drop from the 801,031 he got in 2017.

In 2013, Mr Odinga had 612,057 votes. In Dr Ruto’s scheme of seeking a footing in Mr Odinga’s backyard, his efforts to win over voters in Coast were boosted by a number of leaders such as governors Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Salim Mvurya (Kwale).

It’s in these two counties that UDA secured parliamentary seats in Kilifi North (Owen Baya) and Msambweni (Feisal Bader) seats in addition to Nyali in Mombasa (Mohamed Ali). UDA candidate Fatuma Achani also won the Kwale governor seat.

The strategy to have fringe candidates in Coast vying for Mr Kingi’s Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) party also allowed Dr Ruto to get a good share of the region’s vote. PAA registered significant wins in Rabai (Anthony Mupe) and Ganze (Ken Charo) constituencies as well as six of the 35 Kilifi MCAs. Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) scooped 16 MCAs while UDA had six. PAA also got four MCA seats in Kwale County and five in Taita Taveta.

“The 113,700 votes Dr Ruto got in Mombasa against Mr Odinga’s 161,015 is an indication that the ODM house is crumbling,” UDA Mombasa gubernatorial candidate Hassan Omar said.

Charm offensive

However, Dr Ruto’s charm offensive in Coast was not a walk in the park. ODM had realised the political onslaught staged by the Kenya Kwanza Alliance and made moves to counter the plans.

The Orange party appeared rattled by indications from the grassroots, especially in regions which overwhelmingly backed it in 2013, that voters were no longer as enthusiastic as they were in the run-up to that election. The issuance of direct party tickets to select aspirants only seemed to amplify the apathy.

This saw ODM minimise engagements in Nairobi and engage in intensive political rallies in tandem with sustained launches of projects by President Kenyatta at the tail end of the campaign period.  To further handle the fallout, ODM adopted a new strategy of intensified engagement with the grassroots.

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir says winning five of the six parliamentary seats in an area perceived to be an opposition stronghold is no mean feat for ODM.

Yesterday, the MP, who is vying for governor, poured cold water on Dr Ruto’s “purported” presidential win.

“We’ve almost 90 per cent of MCAs, five out of six MPs, the Senator and the Woman Representative in Mombasa... ODM also did well in the other five Coast counties. I’m confident of a win in next week’s Mombasa governor election as well,” Mr Nassir said.

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