If Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi’s public pronouncements are anything to go by, not even in his wildest dreams did he imagine losing the seat in the 2022 county elections.
Had Mr Murungi reclaimed his position, this would have been his last gubernatorial term before retiring; he has therefore been urging the electorate to not humiliate him at the ballot, and to let him retire ‘respectfully’ with one last vote of confidence.
Having won seven consecutive elections – six for parliamentary positions and the gubernatorial one – all while vying on seven different political parties, Mr Murungi seemed set to stay in place.
In fact, during the area gubernatorial debate organised by local media in May where Mr Murungi faced off with competitor Mithika Linturi, he was clear that losing was not an option.
“That question does not arise because I will not lose. How can I lose?” he quipped when asked if he would concede defeat in case he lost.
Mr Murungi’s political career has spanned three decades; it kicked off in 1992 when he won the South Imenti parliamentary seat, and he has not lost an election since.
“I am very experienced in politics and am the longest serving politician in this region,” the governor said during a rally at Maili Tatu in Igembe Central constituency in November last year. “Not even the late Jackson Angaine can match my experience,” he continued. “I have never lost an election and I won’t lose in 2022. Even those who have been calling me names are welcome to come for political counsel from me.”
In a video currently circulating via social media, Mr Murungi is heard to say, “You can vote for whoever you wish, but be assured that Kiraitu Murungi will be your governor.”
However, despite his bullish fight against the incumbent woman representative Kawira Mwangaza and senator Mr Linturi, the electorate decided otherwise and voted for Ms Mwangaza.
At the time this story was published, results from the nine constituencies indicated that Ms Mwangaza was leading with 206,129 votes; Mr Linturi was in second place with 182,529 votes while Mr Murungi registered third position with107, 862 votes.
Mr Murungi had earlier dismissed Ms Mwangaza bid for governor, arguing that she ‘lacked academic qualifications’.
After she was cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), a resident moved to court to challenge the validity of Ms Mwangaza and her running mate Isaac M’Ethingia’s university degrees. The petition was thrown out in July 2022. Besides downplaying Ms Mwangaza’s abilities, Mr Murungi also said the United Democratic Alliance wave sweeping the region would not affect him ‘at all’.
Ms Mwangaza declared her interest in the seat in 2019, but many political pundits were skeptical she would win. Therefore, when, in 2020, she vowed to end Murungi’s illustrious political career in 2022, not many noticed.
Ms Mwangaza ventured into elective politics in 2013 when she vied for the Buuri constituency parliamentary seat – and lost. She then initiated a philanthropic initiative dubbed ‘Operation Okolea’ that brought her to the limelight. This initiative was buoyed by a local television station, Baite TV, which her husband Murega Baicu manages, as it beamed her philanthropic activities uninterrupted.
In a recent interview on Baite TV, Ms Mwangaza said, “It is during my work with the community (that) the people requested me to vie for woman representative.”
She was duly elected Meru county woman representative in 2017, running as an independent candidate after losing the Jubilee party nomination ticket.
Ms Mwangaza has been a vocal critic of Mr Murungi. “There is no development record from him,” she told the media in a 2020 interview.