Jitters in Azimio over scheme to eliminate ‘weak’ candidates

Azimio NEC Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya

Azimio NEC Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya who has said that they will receive a report from various pollsters, groups and individuals they had commissioned to assess the popularity of candidates.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party is determined to implement a controversial plan to weed out “weak candidates” using opinion polls in a strategy to win a majority of seats in Parliament in the August 9 elections.

The contentious scheme that seeks to retain only popular aspirants will be approved this week when the coalition’s National Executive Council (NEC) meets. However, the plan could run into headwinds given the fallout it’s likely to trigger.

NEC Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said Wednesday that they will receive a report from various pollsters, groups and individuals they had commissioned to assess the popularity of candidates.

“By the end of the month, we shall know which candidates [will] fly our flag where and in which positions,” he told the Nation. Azimio is targeting Nairobi, Western, Eastern, Coast and parts of Rift Valley and Mt Kenya regions, where Kenya Kwanza Alliance is likely to win several seats and deny Azimio a majority in county assemblies, the Senate, National Assembly and in the Council of Governors (CoG).

Majority in both Houses

Mr Oparanya said Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga needs a majority in both Houses and the CoG to run the government smoothly, if elected.

Azimio will also rely on reports from national government administrators and the National Intelligence Service to knock out weak candidates.

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho and Information and Communication Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru recently said Mr Odinga would win by more than 60 per cent of the total vote, based on intelligence reports, sparking protests from the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), whose presidential candidate is Deputy President William Ruto.

UDA wrote a protest letter to the Intelligence Service Complaints Board over what it termed as “misuse of national security organs to advance Mr Odinga’s political interests”.

Azimio council’s first deputy chairman Adan Keynan said that while the coalition encourages internal competition to bolster the presidential vote turnout, affiliated parties are also encouraged to embrace consensus within presumed political battlegrounds to minimise vote split that could give Azimio competitors undue advantage.

Feeling the heat

Some Azimio candidates are feeling the heat from coalition rivals, a situation that they say risks their ability to beat Kenya Kwanza rivals.

“This business of two candidates for Azimio cannot work. We must have one candidate for every position. Let’s make the painful decision today,” said Narok Senator Ledama Olekina on Twitter yesterday.

The Orange Democratic Movement candidate is facing stiff competition from Ubuntu Peoples’ Forum’s Meitamei Olol Dapash and Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchellah (Jubilee), a move that could benefit UDA’s Samuel Tunai.

Although Mr Oparanya insisted that unpopular candidates will be asked to step down, it will be interesting how the coalition will handle incumbents who are perceived to be unpopular or those in fringe parties in Nyanza.

May not be tenable

Political analyst Dismas Mokua argued that it may not be tenable to compel candidates to drop their bids after gazettement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Jubilee Director of Elections Kanini Kega said the coalition was in the process of conducting “serious scientific polling” to determine popular candidates.

Speaking in Nyahururu yesterday, Azimio running mate Martha Karua confirmed Mr Oparanya’s assertions, saying, the party will execute the opinion poll plan to avoid losing to its rivals.

“We do not want a situation where Azimio candidates compete and divide our votes and enable our rival to win the seats.”

“We will sit down and decide which candidate to present to voters. . We must ensure that you have elected a governor and other leaders whom we will work smoothly with,” Ms Karua said.

She, however, assured candidates that the process to select the candidates will be fair and transparent.

“The selection of the candidates and popularity study will be fair and everyone will be involved. Our intention is not to bar anyone from contesting but we have to get the strongest candidate to ensure that we win most of the seats,” added the Narc-Kenya party leader.