Deputy President William Ruto and his main challenger Raila Odinga have rolled out fresh strategies to curtail the influence of independent candidates who are threatening to upend their parties.
Following what has been described as ‘bungled’ nominations, disgruntled candidates in both United Democratic Alliance (UDA) of DP Ruto and former Prime Minister’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) opted out, posing a threat to the parties plan to get majority in Parliament, Council of Governors and county assemblies.
Consequently, the Nation has established that the two presidential frontrunners have instructed their lieutenants to campaign as a team to win all the seats on their home turf. This is meant to consolidate resources and help prop up some candidates who may not be strong individually but can benefit from team effort.
As part of the strategy, the two leaders have tasked their teams to embark on door-to-door campaigns and brand the independents and those of other parties as agents of rival camps who should be rejected. The two leaders also plan to visit their strongholds to rally their troops to back them.
When Mr Odinga visited Migori, Siaya and Homa Bay recently, he reconciled antagonising groups in his camp so that they work as a team to deliver the ODM votes.
For instance, independents in Mr Odinga’s Nyanza stronghold are being painted as candidates who have been sponsored by DP Ruto to spoil for the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya presidential candidate, while in Rift Valley, independents are viewed as rebels and agents of the former Prime Minister out to jeopardise chances for Kenyan Kwanza Alliance (KKA) to form the next government.
The threat was so real that Mr Odinga camped in Nyanza for four days and DP Ruto was forced recently to campaign for UDA candidates only, sending his emissaries, led by his running mate Rigathi Gachagua.
Party numbers at stake
Mr Odinga’s tour of his home turf will focus on gubernatorial seats and parliamentary races where ODM candidates are facing a Herculean task selling their candidacies. ODM chairman John Mbadi said they agreed to strengthen the party in the region ahead of the August 9 General Election and get as many votes as possible.
“The objective is to get 100 per cent voter turnout for Raila Amollo Odinga. Second is to try and help our candidates, more so the ODM candidates, win. This is the discussion and agreement we have in the party.”
Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, another ally of Mr Odinga, said the ‘six-piece’ voting pattern is to ensure Mr Odinga has enough legislators to help him implement his agenda.
"It is our duty as ODM to campaign and ensure we get the maximum number of seats and emerge stronger," he said recently.
In an earlier interview with the Nation, Mr Wandayi said: “As members of ODM, we consider any political party that is competing against us for whichever political seat as an opponent. This is regardless of whether the particular political outfit is a member of the Azimio coalition.”
In a place like Rangwe, the ODM candidate, who is the incumbent, Dr Lilian Gogo, is facing three independents—former MP George Oner, Dr Erick Komolo and William Odaje.
Not sitting pretty
In the battle to succeed Governor Cyprian Awiti in Homa Bay, where Woman Rep Gladys Wanga, who is the ODM gubernatorial candidate, is not sitting pretty as former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero, an independent, is reported to be making significant gains.
On the other hand, in Rift Valley, DP Ruto’s lieutenants have packaged their campaign messaging that in his presidential ambition, he needs as many lawmakers as possible for the purpose of rolling out the bottom-up agenda.
Rally behind UDA candidates
Elgeyo Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen said Rift Valley needs to rally behind all UDA candidates for the sake of Dr Ruto’s government stability.
"Vote for UDA leaders so that we can empower women and other small traders. We need numbers in the Senate. We want to get 30 senators so that we will give ample time to DP Ruto when he becomes president,” said Senator Murkomen.
Governor Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Stephen Sang (Nandi), Dr Erick Mutai (Kericho) and Hillary Barchok (Bomet) are leading UDA teams in their regions to counter the independent and Azimio waves before DP Ruto wraps up the initiative.
“We must start preparing in this region because the boss (DP Ruto) will soon be here. This is DP Ruto’s backyard. We, as leaders, are working together to ensure UDA sweeps all the seats. There is no way we can elect Ruto as president then here, in Uasin Gishu, we elect independents,” said Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi Saturday.
According to Mr Gachagua, independents in Rift Valley are not different from those in Azimio who are their competitors.
“I want voters to reject those on independent tickets. We need legislators who share in government development objectives. The Senate and the National Assembly would help in the formulation and approval of the economic policies to leverage Kenyans suffering from economic deterioration,” said Mr Gachagua in Nandi recently.
Some of the DP's allies from Nandi who refused to accept nomination outcomes are Cornelius Serem (Aldai), Dr Wilson Kogo (Chesumei), Vincent Tuwei (Mosop), Dr Tecla Tum (Nandi) and Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills). MP Silas Tiren (Moiben), Governor Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet senatorial race), MP William Chepkut (Ainabkoi) and MP Swarup Mishra (Kesses) also face UDA candidates, although they didn't participate in the party’s nominations. A similar situation has been witnessed in Kericho and Bomet among other counties.
Political commentator Martin Andati argues that both teams are faced with a herculean task in pushing through their ‘six-piece’ voting as many independents are likely to win.
“No six-piece voting anywhere. Voters want to a free hand in electing people of their own choice. Imposed candidates will be defeated by those in other parties or independent candidate.”
United States International University Prof Macharia Munene says the parties should be worried about independents. “There is a lot of dissonance in the big parties,” he said.