DP William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

DP William Ruto (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga. Their battle for the few but potentially decisive diaspora votes has started.

| File | Nation Media Group

2022 presidential race: What Raila Odinga, William Ruto want in running mates

 In the 2022 presidential race between Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga, the choice of running mate will likely determine who emerges victorious.

The declaration by Mr Odinga during the Azimio la Umoja convention on December 10 that he would gun for the country’s top seat appears to have added impetus to efforts for the right pick of a running mate.

Dr Ruto’s camp is also said to be making similar efforts.

While both teams are discreetly looking at possible candidates, the bottom line it seems, is that they will get running mates from Mt Kenya.

Dr Ruto appears to enjoy favourable support than Mr Odinga in the region.

“In presidential elections, people do not vote fundamentally for the running mate. In the case of Kenya, however, it is important for a candidate to signal to the large demographics of voters that he sees and hears them,” said Prof Makau Mutua of the SUNY Buffalo School of Law, who has declared support for Mr Odinga.

In past elections, political party leaders forming coalitions agreed among themselves who was to be the presidential candidate and running mate.

Limited choices

It appears different this time as Mr Odinga and Dr Ruto appear to have limited choices.

Similarly, One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals maintain that they will agree on who will be the flagbearer and running mate amid mounting pressure that they join Mr Odinga or the DP’s camp.

For Mr Odinga, the Jubilee Party and other formations allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta, are expected to play a big role in selecting his running mate as part of a coalition being crafted.

Several names have been mentioned. They include Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, a critic of Dr Ruto, who read Mt Kenya Foundation resolutions backing Mr Odinga’s bid during the Azimio la Umoja convention at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi.

It is Mr Munya who introduced to the crowd Cabinet and Principal Secretaries.

The Party of National Unity (PNU), associated with the Agriculture CS, is in talks with ODM for a coalition.

A Munya running mate could make Mr Odinga do well in Mt Kenya East, which has often been more sympathetic to him. It is the only region in Mt Kenya that elected an ODM MP in 2013.  Mt Kenya East encompasses Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi counties.

Other names that have cropped up as Mr Odinga’s possible running mate are Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui who has in the recent past said he will defend his seat, and his Laikipia colleague Ndiritu Muriithi who is in a committee of political and technical experts that runs Mr Odinga’s campaigns.

Former Cabinet Minister and Gichugu MP Martha Karua’s name has also been mentioned. Ms Karua is Narc-K party leader and contested the Kirinyaga governor seat in 2017.

There have also been suggestions of getting a person from the corporate world. Some of Odinga allies have not shut the door on Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

In Ruto's camp, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua’s name keeps cropping up.

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata told the Sunday Nation that Dr Ruto has confirmed his running mate would come from Mt Kenya.

“We have left it to the wisdom of the DP. He has to set the criteria and will accept the political consequences of his choice,” Mr Kang’ata said.

“How I wish he looks at Murang’a. The county has good leaders like Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and Alice Wahome of Kandara.”

Dr Ruto’s supporters in Mt Kenya are largely first or second term MPs and many do not have the sway over voters like former opposition leader and Kiharu MP Kenneth Matiba, former President Mwai Kibaki or Mr Kenyatta.

According to Mr Kang’ata, the DP would also consider age and education of possible running mate choices.

“He will definitely be interested in a person who will add value to his ticket. He can reward women, the youth or someone from a special interest group. He can also reward loyalty,” Mr Kang’ata said.

Dr Ruto and the ODM leader have kept the search for running mates a closely-guarded secret, with just a few trusted allies in the picture.

Some of the approaches proposed are developing models, conducting internal polling, views of the political advisers, addressing the gender question and the public perception of the running mate hopefuls.

Though aides and close allies of Mr Odinga are wary of discussing internal debate, one who spoke to us  said Jubilee would produce the running mate in the event of a coalition.

“To be honest, the question of running mate has not been discussed in our camp,” the aide said yesterday.

“We have no problem with the person as long as he or she is acceptable to our candidate. We hope the President will give us that person at an appropriate time.”

But even as Jubilee takes on that role, the team of political and technical experts that is running Mr Odinga’s campaigns is also doing its homework.

At the top of the considerations is a person who will boost Mr Odinga’s chances, especially in Mt Kenya.

Mr Odinga and his advisers are also looking for a person that will not rock his boat.

Prof Mutua said the current government where the President and his deputy are not on talking terms is a good lesson for Mr Odinga.

“He is going to be careful and listen to what various constituencies say. Mr Odinga will consult widely,” Prof Mutua said.