Kalonzo caught between a rock and hard place in Azimio standoff

Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka

Azimio presidential aspirant Raila Odinga (right) and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s allies have denied reports of talks aimed at his return to Mr Raila’s Odinga’s presidential campaign.

Mr Musyoka walked out of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party on Monday just before Mr Odinga announced Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua his running mate.

The Wiper boss later relaunched his presidential bid under his party.

Unconfirmed reports indicated negotiations were under way for his return to the Azimio fold on condition that the coalition agreement be changed to include his appointment as chief minister should Mr Odinga win the presidency in August.

When announcing Ms Karua as his running mate, Mr Odinga said Mr Musyoka would be chief minister in the Azimio government alongside other key cabinet appointments.

By the time of Mr Odinga’s announcement, Mr Musyoka had snubbed the Azimio event and was making public the revival of his bid.

Efforts to reach Mr Musyoka yesterday were unsuccessful, with calls and text messages going unanswered.

However, his allies denied reports of negotiations with Mr Odinga.

It also emerged that the Azimio flagbearer instructed his troops to halt attacks on the Wiper leader during the period leading the formal nomination of presidential candidates by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which begins on May 30.

This came as it emerged that Mr Musyoka’s strategists sought advice from the Registrar of Political Parties on whether he could still run for president in light of his being bound by the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party pact.

Focus is now on what the Wiper leader will do during the 11 days to May 30 when IEBC begins receiving nomination papers from presidential aspirants.

In anticipation of being short-changed for the Azimio deputy president nomination, Wiper, on May 9, submitted Mr Musyoka’s name as its presidential flagbearer.

The Daily Nation has established that before that, Mr Musyoka’s allies sought an interpretation at the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties of his eligibility to go solo in light of the party’s commitment to the Azimio pact, but the response was negative.

A source at the registrar’s office told the Daily Nation yesterday that the Wiper team was advised to explore the exit provisions of the Azimio agreement first before Mr Musyoka would have a chance to go it alone in the presidential election.

“We told his team that we could only expunge Wiper from the Azimio documents after a court order,” the source said.

It’s on this basis that Makueni MP Dan Maanzo had indicated plans to move to court to challenge the Azimio agreement, but that had not happened by yesterday.

Sources have indicated behind-the-scenes talks to persuade the former vice-president to abandon his solo run and rejoin the Azimio team, which has President Kenyatta’s backing.

Mr Musyoka’s run on a Wiper ticket faces legal hurdles because the party is a signatory of the Azimio deal, which binds dozens of outfits to support Mr Odinga’s State House race. It imposes a difficult exit clause, whose timelines would essentially mean Mr Musyoka’s bid is time-barred.

The agreement that binds the 26 political parties states that, any member who wishes to leave can only do so after giving a notice with 90 days expiry to the Coalition Council, which will be the second-highest organ of the alliance.

“No party may withdraw from the coalition six months before the August 2022 General Election or within three months after the date of the said election,” the agreement states in Article 22 under the heading ‘Withdrawal of Parties’.

And so, Mr Musyoka who joined Parliament at 32 in 1985 following a mini poll, and would stay on as MP until 2013, finds himself at a crossroads, with the decision he takes in the coming 11 days being one that could make or break his next political chapter.

Mr Maanzo told the Nation yesterday that, Wiper has no plans to renegotiate the Azimio deal even as it emerged that the party is keen on the development of a structured power sharing agreement that would see Mr Odinga’s promise of chief cabinet secretary post to Mr Musyoka included.

“There is no power sharing structure, which is the basis of any negotiations or any coalition arrangement of working together. Without a power-sharing agreement, which is registered with the Registrar of Political Parties, everything else is as a nullity,” Mr Maanzo said.

“Kalonzo is a reasonable man who wants the best for the country.”

Mr Maanzo, however, added that there were no other instructions apart from Mr Musyoka running for president, having presented his name and Mr Andrew Sunkuli’s as his running mate to the IEBC.

Presentation of names to the commission, however, is only a formality as what matters is actual presentation of nomination papers and clearance to run.

Though Wiper leaders are emphatic that there are no negotiations on the Azimio agreement, the fact that the outfit has neither written to the Registrar of Political Parties (RPP) to trigger exit from the coalition, nor filed the case, suggests it could be on to something.

Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu yesterday said her office had not received any communication from Wiper with an intention of leaving Azimio, but explained there is room for renegotiation of pacts as per the provisions of the agreements.

“The only parties that wrote to us were Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) and Pamoja African Alliance,” Ms Nderitu said.

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s MCC case at the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal has since been thrown out, with the panel asking the outfit to first exhaust internal Azimio mechanisms before lodging the complaint.

Reports indicated that, with the running mate post no longer on the table, Mr Musyoka’s side is keen on a clause that ring-fences the floated chief cabinet secretary position to ensure Wiper is not left at the mercy of the incoming president.

Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua also downplayed reports of renegotiation.

“I’m not aware of any such move,” told the Nation.

But even if Musyoka forges ahead with his presidential bid, there’s a concern whether he can still galvanise Ukambani behind him, especially given his run would be seen as an afterthought and without big chances of success.

And with his archrivals in the region placing their bets on the two frontrunners for the presidency—Mr Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto — there’s a likelihood that, whoever will be with the winning team could eclipse him in the region’s supremacy.

Governor Mutua joined DP Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance while his colleagues Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) have stuck with Mr Odinga.

But Mr Odinga, who would be the greatest loser should the region vote bloc that he has relied on in the last two elections be taken away, wouldn’t want to take that gamble.

Mr Musyoka ran in 2007 and came third with 879,903 votes. Then id President Mwai Kibaki named him deputy.

Mr Odinga became Prime Minister in a Grand Coalition government formed after the disputed outcome of the presidential vote that triggered bloodshed.

Mr Musyoka then became Mr Odinga’s running mate in 2013 and 2017.

Kitui, Makueni and Machakos form Mr Musyoka’s political base gave Mr Odinga 900,405 votes out of the 1,068,684 who had registered in 2013.

Nationally, Mr Kenyatta polled 6.1 million (50.51 per cent) while Mr Odinga had 5.3 million (43.7 per cent).

The tally jumped to 968,437 votes in 2017. President Kenyatta polled 8.2 million (54.2 per cent) while Mr Odinga garnered 6.7 million or 44.7 per cent.

Mr Odinga successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the presidential election but the opposition leader later boycotted the rerun.

Given that Mr Odinga has polled below 50 per cent of the national vote, even with the huge Ukambani bloc, the coalition’s equation without this support would be undermined in August when the number of registered voters in the three counties stands at 1.7 million.

Mr Musyoka’s run in the August poll is thus seen as an attempt to force a runoff at which time he would have a stronger bargaining power. His next step is unclear should the IEBC not clear him to run for president.

Wiper vice-chairman Mutula Kilonzo Jr says the chief minister “is just a glorified minister who can be reshuffled, fired or impeached by Parliament. It means absolutely nothing.”

On the Kenya Kwanza side, DP Ruto has offered ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi the post of Prime Cabinet Secretary and Ford-K leader Moses Wetang’ula Senate Speaker.


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