Raila’s headache as Cabinet expectations, demands soar

Azimio coalition flag bearer Raila Odinga

Azimio coalition flag bearer Raila Odinga.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Winning the backing of a large array of political parties is proving a double-edged sword for Azimio coalition flag bearer Raila Odinga, who already finds himself having to balance a delicate power-sharing equation.

Support from many parties is an asset when it comes to securing votes of key regions, but the downside is having too many competing interests scrambling for the spoils and turning the campaign into a Tower of Babel.

Mr Odinga may have succeeded to quell the internal revolt that followed his choice of Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate.

The return of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who had threatened to sever ties with Azimio and revive his presidential campaigns, is a boost to his campaigns.

Cabinet slots for Kalonzo

However, it has come at a cost: Mr Musyoka is angling for at least five Cabinet slots, including the Chief Cabinet Secretary post. This further limits the amount of wiggle room Mr Odinga would have in forming his Cabinet should he win, as he has already handed out another six of the 22 Cabinet slots.

That means 11—half of Cabinet slots—are occupied even before he considers President Kenyatta’s side.

Mr Odinga is expected to retain some key members of the Kenyatta Cabinet and has even announced some nominees in efforts to outshine his key rival, Deputy President William Ruto.

Unlike Mr Odinga, DP Ruto has not made public any specific Cabinet promises, save for the Prime Cabinet Secretary deal with Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and a commitment to give western Kenya 30 per cent of government jobs.

The Nation established that Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) counterpart Joe Mucheru and Transport CS James Macharia were likely to be considered for appointment in Mr Odinga’s Cabinet. The two attended the unveiling of Ms Karua as Mr Odinga’s running mate at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre on May 16.

Under attack

Dr Matiang’i and Mr Mucheru, in particular, have been under attack by the Ruto camp over claims of using their influential ministerial positions to campaign for Mr Odinga.

Mr Odinga has also promised to retain Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya in the same docket.

Mr Munya was among 11 running mate candidates. The others were Ms Karua, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Mr Oparanya and Mr Musyoka, Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, his Narc counterpart Charity Ngilu, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege and National Liberal Party leader Stephen Tarus.

Mr Odinga has also promised Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa a role in his administration.

His ODM party deputies Joho and Oparanya have been assigned Treasury and Lands dockets, respectively, in a strategic move to beat back Ruto gains at the Coast and in Western.

The ODM leader has also designated Ms Karua as the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Cabinet Secretary should Azimio form the next government.

The former running mate candidates yet to secure posts expect a reward too.

Affiliate parties

Raila’s political chessboard is further complicated by the need to appease the other 24 or so political parties that folded up to form Azimio, besides the expectations of President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party and his own ODM loyalists.

Should Mr Odinga’s fifth stab at the presidency be successful, he would have a hard time crafting his Cabinet in a manner that would fulfil the promises he has made, failing which he’d be branded a serial betrayer.

Article 152 of the Constitution of Kenya states that the Cabinet consists of the President, Deputy President, Attorney-General and not fewer than 14 and not more than 22 Cabinet secretaries.

The capping of the Cabinet at 22 slots may complicate things for Mr Odinga, analysts say, further cautioning that failure to honour his promises could lead to political turbulence for the ODM leader should he form the next government.

Additional headache

And, although Baringo Senator Moi, Ms Ngilu and Mr Kinyanjui are defending their seats in tough contests, failure to retain those positions will mean additional headache for Mr Odinga, who will have to allocate them senior positions in his government.

According to ODM national chairman John Mbadi, nothing stops Mr Odinga from retaining some ministers. “I don’t see why it would not be possible to have some of Uhuru’s Cabinet ministers in Raila’s administration if Raila considers them competent enough to be retained. They may be retained in the same dockets or assigned other dockets,” Mr Mbadi told the Nation.

He noted that there is a power-sharing deal that outlines how the 26 Azimio parties would benefit were Mr Odinga to form the next government.

“There is also an agreement but I may not talk about it much. I know in the agreement Jubilee is supposed to bring in some people as well as other parties within Azimio... but unlike the UhuRuto kind of arrangement where they shared government on a 50/50 basis, ours is based on mutual understanding and partnership,” he said.

No demands

Mr Mbadi, however, clarified that Jubilee had not made any demands.

“This is a coalition of the willing, with the biggest agenda being formation of government and service to the people. Jubilee has demonstrated it’s a good partner by even ceding the Deputy President slot, which is a clear indication of goodwill and magnanimity,” added the Suba South and House minority leader.

Jubilee Party Director of Elections Kanini Kega, who is also a member of Mr Odinga’s national presidential campaign team, said the party was only keen on forming a competent government.

“Our support is not about positions but service delivery. That’s why Jubilee did not insist on having the running mate position by all means and let it go to Martha of Narc Kenya party,” Mr Kega said.

Political analyst Dismas Mokua argues that failure by Azimio “to meet and manage party leaders’ expectations is a recipe for political turbulence”.

“This may get complicated if Azimio does not have super majority in both Houses. Unhappy legislators might decide to disrupt his legislative agenda,” Mr Mokua says.

He adds that should Mr Odinga win the presidency and Kenya Kwanza secure the parliamentary majority, he might have to endure a strained relationship with the Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate.

Uhuru loyalists

Another complication is if Mr Odinga wins but is forced to name a large number of Cabinet secretaries form Jubilee and other coalition partners.

“This team may remain loyal to Uhuru depending on the latter’s political capital. Maintaining administrative continuity and retaining President Kenyatta as his adviser means that Raila would not deploy the clean sheet strategy.

“He will be encumbered and may not hit the ground running. He has to remain sensitive and alive to President Kenyatta’s expectations,” said Mr Mokua.

“I’m sure Raila is alive to the fact that he needs a functioning government for five years. He needs to revive the economy in terms of managing public debt. We appreciate that Uhuru has left a basic infrastructure but there is also the issue of public debt and cost of living, which begs for a really functioning and cohesive government,” he said.