The August 9 race for State House just got tighter for Deputy President William Ruto; with Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s entry into the Azimio la Umoja Movement and declaration of ODM boss Raila Odinga as flagbearer of the political alliance.
A Raila-Kalonzo ticket in the 2013 and 2017 General Elections offered uncomfortably close contests for the winning Uhuru Kenyatta-Ruto Jubilee team, as the country appeared to have been split into two nearly equal electoral voting blocks.
With President Kenyatta throwing his weight behind the Raila-Kalonzo ticket, DP Ruto will have to work extra hard to tilt the scales in his favour, by ensuring that he wins enough votes to replace those lost to voters who will heed the Head of State’s call to back the Azimio alliance.
Political analyst Martin Andati says that by netting Mr Musyoka, the ODM leader on Saturday succeeded in locking out Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance out of the lower Eastern region, giving Mr Odinga a major boost in his quest to rule Kenya.
“The move guarantees Mr Odinga up to 95 per cent of the lower eastern vote which is a major boost for Azimio,” Mr Andati said.
Mr Odinga was endorsed Saturday by a constellation of about 30 political parties, including Mr Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement.
Despite the endorsement, it is still not clear whether Mr Musyoka will be Mr Odinga’s running mate in the August polls.
Despite their lingering political differences, which Mr Odinga acknowledged in his nomination acceptance speech, Mr Musyoka’s entry into Azimio has given a major fillip to what is likely to be Mr Odinga’s closest run for the presidency since his first stab in 1997.
Unlike his colleagues in the One Kenya Alliance (OKA), Mr Musyoka holds the wild card in the August 9 presidential race which, if well exploited, could make Mr Odinga’s fifth bid a home run.
IEBC data indicates that Mr Musyoka delivered between 1.3 million to 1.5 million votes to Mr Odinga's vote basket in 2013 and 2017, and his decision to join Azimio may have just consolidated the entire lower eastern region to Mr Odinga’s corner.
While the Supreme Court nullified the outcome of the August 8 2017 presidential election, data from IEBC shows that the ODM leader received 968,437 votes from the three Ukambani counties that had more than 1.5 million registered voters in 2017.
Increased Odinga’s chances
University of Nairobi don Herman Manyora Saturday said the decision by Wiper party leader to join Azimio has, no doubt, increased Mr Odinga’s chances to become Kenya’s fifth president.
But he was adamant that it all depends on what the former VP is offered in the Azimio coalition.
“It depends on how he joins and what he will get to symbolise the place of the region in the Azimio government,” Mr Manyora said, drawing parallels to the challenge that ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula found themselves in when they decided to join hands with DP Ruto.
Soon after they announced the decision to work with the DP in early January, their two political parties were met with a wave of defection, signalling disaffection by some to the move.
“If Mr Musyoka goes in with nothing to show for it there is likelihood that it will not excite his base,” Mr Manyora opined.
Beyond its natural home of Kitui, Makueni and Machakos, the Kamba community has a significant vote in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Taita Taveta counties, estimated to total somewhere between two million and 2.5 million.
Kitui, Makueni and Machakos, which form Mr Musyoka's political base, delivered 900,405 votes out of the 1,068,684 who had registered in 2013.
Five years later, in 2017, the number of registered voters in the Ukambani region had soared up to 1.5 million, out of which Mr Odinga received 968,437, according to IEBC.
After the recent mass voter registrations, the total number of registered voters in the three counties rose to 1,697,003, a 12.09 per cent increase from 2017.
With Mr Musyoka in the bag, Mr Odinga and his allies will be looking up to the President to deliver the vote from his own Mt Kenya backyard.
DP Ruto appears to enjoy a near-fanatical following in the vote-rich region.
Ever since the Mwai Kibaki days, the region was famously known for its uniformity and singlemindedness in casting votes in the General Election, a tradition that is facing a major challenge as the people appear ready to resist the President’s overtures.
Rolled up in nine counties, the Mt Kenya community appears to be lost in the firm reality that for the first time, the region will act as swing region for others in what is likely to trigger some form of voter apathy.
Five years ago, the region had 4.4 million registered voters, which has increased by 391,599 in the latest registration, bringing the total to 4.8 million.
Worth noting is the fact that the total number of new registered voters in Mt Kenya totalled to 8.9 per cent increase, far below the national average of 13 per cent that was recorded in all other regions.
This points some unpalatable truth that should worry DP Ruto, whose presidential bid is anchored on the voting pattern and turnout in Mt Kenya.
For a start, it raises the risk of a serious political apathy in the region that could spill over into the election. While this should be good news to Mr Odinga, because of the obvious resistance his bid has generated in the region, it should worry Dr Ruto and his campaign handlers.
This because low voter turnout in Mt Kenya will undermine the DP’s bid while allowing Mr Odinga the opportunity to consolidate his gains in the regions that are excited with his bid.
Mr Manyora dismisses the idea that it is President Kenyatta’s role to vote hunt for Mr Odinga, dismissing such postulations as untenable.
“It was never Mr Kenyatta’s role to deliver Mr Kenya votes for Mr Odinga,” he mused.
“The President’s exact role is destabilise the region so that his deputy does get the maximum votes. It is more of lighting fires under Ruto’s feet and making it hard for him to get all the numbers required to succeed him.”
Mt Kenya East
With Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Agriculture CS Peter Munya in Azimio, Mr Odinga appears to have solved the puzzle of Mt Kenya East, a region that brings together Meru, Embu and Tharaka-Nithi counties, which account for 1.4 million registered voters, according to the latest statistics.
Political observers argue that a combined force of Mr Munya and Mr Murungi has the capacity to turn the tide in Mt Kenya in favour of Mr Odinga and deliver a big a majority of votes, mainly in Meru and Embu, with Tharaka-Nithi still tilting towards Kenya Kwanza.
“Mr Kenyatta can deliver to Mr Odinga at least 30 per cent of the vote. This is huge and will undermine Ruto’s bid,” Mr Andati says.
In Western Kenya, the decision by Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula to enter into an alliance with DP Ruto appears to have achieved little traction among the people who, in previous elections, have supported Mr Odinga.
Part of the issue here is that the people of the region have internalised perceptions that neither of the two may be Dr Ruto’s running mate, a position they believe has been set aside for Mt Kenya.
With two million registered voters spread in the counties of Kakamega, Busia and Vihiga, opinion is sharply divided with the pro-Odinga feelings dominating.
However, the DP enjoys significant support in Bungoma County, where he has had allies right from 2017 when four Jubilee MPs were elected.
John Waluke (Sirisia), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West) and Mwambu Mabonga (Bumula) have been in the frontline in campaigning for Dr Ruto, and things can only get better with the entry of Mr Wetang’ula and Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, who are both in Kenya Kwanza.
Hold in Nyanza
Mr Odinga has in recent days strengthened his hold in Nyanza. Whereas in the past he has had to confront hostile neighbours in the two counties of Omugusii – Kisii and Nyamira – where he has had to make do with divided support, there appears to be a significant shift in his favour that guarantees him most of the three million votes on offer.
Buoyed by recent mass defections of DP Ruto allies in the two counties, the region is locked and Mr Odinga could sweep all the votes.
A traditional Mr Odinga base, Coast counties have 1,953,528 registered voters in 2022. Even though DP Ruto has made some inroads in Kwale, Mr Odinga still holds sway, with expectation that he will bag majority of the votes.
While the ODM leader has retained his support, his bid is strengthened by the fact that Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi has chosen to support his bid through his PAA party.
Mr Kingi delivered 100 per cent of votes for Mr Odinga in the county, with all elective seats being controlled by ODM.