Candidates shocker as Ruto, Raila seek to get most seats

Kisii governor seat Azimio candidate Simba Arati during a campaign rally

Kisii governor seat Azimio candidate Simba Arati (centre) during a campaign rally. The coalition has three candidates against UDA’s one in Kisii. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Hundreds of candidates for various seats who have since spent millions of shillings in the campaigns are likely to be pushed out in a final attempt by main political formations to secure more seats.

Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance is targeting 546 candidates across the country to drop out of the August 9 contest in areas it has multiple of them in a bid to avoid giving independents or Azimio contestants an advantage.

Insiders told the Sunday Nation that Coast and Western regions will be the most affected by the latest scheme that could trigger political backlash in Dr Ruto’s camp about 50 days to the polls.

The headache in this carrot-and-stick strategy is how to convince the candidates to give up their ambitions. The options—targeting MCA, MP, Woman representative, senator and governor candidates — is to use threats of campaigning against those who refuse to drop their bids while promising rewards, like a slot in presidential campaign teams and ultimately government positions, to those who agree to a negotiated exit. The end-game is to get majority seats in most counties —or a close minority— in county assemblies, the National Assembly, Senate and the Council of Governors.

The alliance argues that it risks losing seats in the two regions should it field multiple candidates. The two regions are still perceived as ODM strongholds. UDA Vihiga Woman representative candidate Jackline Mwenesi was recently forced out of the race in favour of ANC’s Beatrice Adagala, who is an incumbent, while in Mumias West Jackline Okanya (ANC) is being edged out in favour of Rashid Echesa (UDA).

The alliance is using internal popularity surveys to carry out the purge.

In Mr Raila Odinga’s Azimio, several political heavyweights are targeted to pave way for a clear win for the perceived strong candidates by various parties under the coalition.

Azimio’s National Coalition Executive Council (NEC) chaired by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya is set to meet tomorrow to ratify a report recommending which candidates to drop out of the race.

The report will subsequently be submitted to party leaders, among them President Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr Odinga, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka and Kanu’s Gideon Moi for implementation.

The candidates targeted have all been cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), meaning they will have to be persuaded to drop their bids.

“We are already compiling a report on whom we think should step down in favour of another Azimio candidate. This is just to ensure we are much stronger especially where sibling rivalry can upset our performance,” Mr Oparanya told the Sunday Nation. Electoral seats targeted for this last-minute negotiations by Azimio coalition include Machakos governor race that has former State House Chief of Staff Nzioka Waita and Wiper party candidate Wavinya Ndeti.

“We will persuade candidates we think cannot make it to leave for those who can make it. We are doing this in the entire country. You can see those areas (targeted) and know which party has strength than the other. You can see Wiper is stronger in Machakos and has higher chances of winning compared to the other candidates,” said Mr Oparanya in a statement that suggested Mr Waita could be pushed out of the race in favour of Ms Ndeti. But Mr Waita has consistently made it clear that he will not drop out in favour of anyone.

Ms Ndeti, however, is currently fighting to remain on the ballot after questions were raised about her academic qualifications.

Mr Oparanya, who is also ODM deputy party leader, said the coalition will campaign against any candidate who will defy the recommendations. “The report will be discussed by the principals. We are having a NEC meeting on Tuesday. It should come out clearly that we are not coercing people to drop out; it is through negotiations and for them to see sense. Of course some will be offered opportunities elsewhere,” he added.

In Nyamira, the coalition is pushing for at least two candidates to drop out of the race. The Azimio is worried that by having incumbent Amos Nyaribo (United Progressive Party), Ben Momanyi (Wiper) and Timothy Bosire (ODM) run, it risks losing to UDA candidate Walter Nyambati.

It is the same case in Kisii, where the coalition is studying the implication of having Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati (ODM), former cabinet minister Chris Obure (Jubilee) and Senator Sam Ongeri (Democratic Action Party-Kenya) going all the way to the ballot.

The coalition is toying with the idea of having two of the candidates drop their bids to avoid splitting votes that have the potential of handing Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Machogu of UDA a win. Internal surveys by the coalition have placed Mr Arati ahead of the other contenders, who have previously insisted they are in the race to the wire.

The coalition is further pushing for consensus in Moyale constituency, where UDA has fielded a single candidate, Galma Baraka against four Azimio contenders.

Jubilee has Roba Duba on its ticket while Qalicha Gufu, the incumbent, is running on UDM, which is led by Mandera Governor Ali Roba. Others in the race are Dr Hassan Guyo of Wiper, Hassan Wario (DAP-K), Prof Guyo Waqo (UPIA) and Chansa Ababa of ODM. Similarly, some of the governor candidates in Vihiga could also be sacrificed in the latest radical move to cushion the coalition from losing the seat currently held by ODM’s Wilber Ottichilo.

Former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende has since dropped out in favour of Governor Ottichilo after Mr Odinga promised him Senate Speaker seat. Others still in the race are former Governor Moses Akaranga (Progressive Party of Kenya) and Senator George Khaniri (United Democratic Party). They will battle against Amani National Congress’ (ANC) Alfred Agoi of Kenya Kwanza.

Mr Odinga’s head of campaign team and Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi appealed to candidates in electoral areas with multiple contenders under Azimio to follow in the footsteps of Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu.

Ms Ngilu this week pulled a surprise by quitting from defending the seat by opting to play a national role in the event Mr Odinga forms the next government. Her decision was a major boost to her predecessor Julius Malombe who is running on Wiper. “In the case of Ngilu, because there is clarity on what she can do at the national level, it was easy to come up with a deal. That kind of straight forward solution is not applicable everywhere,” says Governor Nderitu.

“It is not our desire to split votes and we would want our candidates to follow in the footsteps of Ngilu. We are actually working hard to reach such kind of consensus,” he added.

In Kilifi County, Kenya Kwanza is targeting lawyer George Kithi of Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) to drop in favour of Aisha Jumwa (UDA). The alliance believes it will have a fighting chance against ODM’s Gideon Mung’aru in the race.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa told the Sunday Nation that the alliance has commissioned opinion polls across the country to gauge the popularity of its candidates before forcing out the weak ones out of the race.

“We are doing a scientific survey next week; we have since done three. Our policy is to do four to establish an accurate pattern before we call parties on the table,” disclosed Mr Barasa.

“At least 546 candidates across the country for all electable positions will be affected. Our focus is to have more numbers in the 47 county assemblies, National Assembly, Senate and at the Council of Governors,” he added.

During a Kenya Kwanza rally attended by DP Ruto, Mr Mudavadi asked Ms Okanya to pull out of the race and back former Sports Cabinet Secretary, Mr Echesa. "We are in a war against Azimio and the wrangles within ourselves could cost us. I will find time to talk to my sister, Okanya, so that as a family of Kenya Kwanza, we remain with one candidate in Mumias West who will bring us victory," said Mr Mudavadi.

But Ms Okanya has since accused the Kenya Kwanza leadership of undermining women and trying to block them from ascending to political office.

Ms Okanya said she has invested heavily in her campaigns and was disappointed by the move to try and stop her from contesting the seat on ANC ticket. "I have so many women and youths behind me. How will I convince them if I’m forced to pullout of the race by my principals? I am very disappointed with the decision made by my party leader," protested Ms Okanya.

Also targeted for consensus within Kenya Kwanza is the Kakamega Woman rep position that has attracted multiple candidates within the alliance.

Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula said there was need to settle on one candidate to avoid sibling rivalry in the campaigns.

In the contest, ANC has fielded Ms Consolata Lusweti while UDA has Ms Hadija Juma Nganyi.

"For us to be in a better position to win the Woman representative seat, we need to have one candidate between Khadija Nganyi of UDA and Dr Consolata Lusweti of ANC. If we present the two of them to voters, we will lose in the elections,” said Mr Wetang’ula.

Other races that have triggered calls for consensus include Butere parliamentary, where Michael Keya (UDA) is facing off with Habil Nanjendo (ANC), in Matungu Alex Lanya (ANC) is rivaling Paul Posho (UDA) while in Mumias East, David Wamatsi (ANC) is facing stiff competition from Benjamin Mapwoni (UDA).

Dr Ruto is reportedly not keen to push for consensus in Mt Kenya region, which is also facing major sibling rivalry. His strategists argue that he needs all the candidates to mobilise voters for the benefit of his presidential win.

Dr Ruto’s bid to succeed President Kenyatta is largely pegged on a high voter turn in the region that swept Jubilee to power in both 2013 and 2017 General Elections.

Any voter apathy that could be caused by forcing some of the candidates to drop their bids could be costly to his ambition to become the country’s fifth president.

Additional reporting by Benson Amadala and Shaban Makokha.