Kalonzo Musyoka digs in on Azimio running mate demand

Raila Ruto running mate choices

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka is walking a tightrope as Azimio presidential aspirant Raila Odinga names his running mate ahead of tomorrow’s deadline set by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Mr Musyoka’s reported plans to ditch the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition and join the race for president has gained urgency in the past few days, fuelled by his political allies’ remarks, as it became clear that Mr Odinga could be looking beyond the Wiper leader for a running mate.

Narc-K leader Martha Karua has emerged as the favourite to deputise Mr Odinga. But Mr Musyoka’s allies have stepped up pressure on him to maintain a hard stance in his demand for the position, leaving little room for talks.

“So long as we have no confirmation of Kalonzo Musyoka as the running mate, then he will run. It is as simple as that. We’re going to run. He has to run. If he runs, then we are good to go. We will know what to do,” Makueni MP Dan Maanzo told Sunday Nation yesterday.

Multiple challenges

Multiple challenges, however, stand in Mr Musyoka’s late bid for president. The biggest is that he needs to overcome the legal hurdle of exiting the Azimio coalition, whose membership agreement had tight lock-in clauses that make it difficult for any party to leave the union until next year. Mr Musyoka and his allies have ruled out any possibility of joining Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance, indicating he will go it alone if he exits Azimio.

Mr Maanzo said Wiper Democratic Movement has already collected the signatures required by the IEBC to get nomination as a presidential candidate. Mr Musyoka is also said to have a ready running mate, to complete his ticket. “We have everything ready. They were ready a long time ago. Even the running mate is ready,” he said in an interview.

Another Musyoka ally, Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, on Friday said the Wiper leader will be on the ballot as a presidential candidate if he is not picked as Mr Odinga’s running mate.

“All presidential candidates will be submitting names of their running mates on Monday. If Kalonzo Musyoka will not be the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition party running mate, then as a party (Wiper), we will forward a running mate to Kalonzo Musyoka. They should not mistake his humility for incapability. If he is not accorded due respect, then Kalonzo will go to the very end in this election,” said Mr Wambua at a political rally in Mwatate on Friday.

To a section of the ODM inner circle, Ms Karua’s oratory skills, her boldness, reform credentials, fight for human rights and her long association with the Odingas makes her a suitable choice for his running mate capable of exciting women voters and the vote-rich Mt Kenya region.

In 1990, Ms Karua, then a young lawyer, took up Raila’s case against the state, leading a team of 27 other young lawyers, under Japheth Shamalla, who had been given to the family by Amnesty International. She also formed the League of Kenya Women Voters with Ida Odinga in 1990, and the two worked together for close to 20 years at the league.

As a former Justice Minister in former President Mwai Kibaki’s government, she worked closely with Mr Odinga in agitating for increased political freedoms and protection of human rights.

To President Kenyatta’s Jubilee party strategists, Ms Karua offers political insurance for the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru, who would see themselves as being a heartbeat away from the presidency if Mr Odinga wins.

She is also seen as a bold politician who is more experienced to take on the leadership mantle compared to other potential running mates from the region.

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Mr Musyoka, however, sees himself as the clear frontrunner, and wonders how he could be overlooked for the position.

“If Kalonzo is helping South Sudan to choose the path of peace and unity, how can I not qualify to be Raila’s running mate? How is this even possible? There is a bit of political turbulence. But don’t get worried. Justice will be done; there is no other way around it,” he said at the Mwatate rally.

Senior Jubilee and ODM figures seem prepared for Mr Musyoka’s departure following his stance. Wiper leaders said they would not attend today’s Azimio rally in Kamukunji Grounds at which Mr Odinga is expected to name his running mate. “We can only attend the announcement of Kalonzo. If not, we are not together,” said Mr Maanzo.

Azimio executive director Raphael Tuju said the choice remains Mr Musyoka’s.  “You cannot stop anyone who wants to run as long as you do it within the context of the law. If he can run as Wiper, then it will be the Registrar of Political Parties to decide. If he is to run as an independent, then it is the IEBC to decide.”

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