Running mates: Tough balancing act for Raila, Ruto as deadline looms

William Ruto and Raila Odinga

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The two are juggling diverse interests within their respective camps amid a scramble for the post.
  • The chosen running mate automatically becomes deputy president should their candidate win.

Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition boss Raila Odinga have two weeks to nominate their running mates, choices with huge implications to their presidential bids.

The DP and Mr Odinga, who are the two leading contenders, have to submit their names together with those of their running mates to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) by April 28.

This further piles pressure on the two, who are juggling diverse interests within their respective camps with more entrants escalating the scramble for the post, whose holder automatically becomes deputy President should their candidate win. 

IEBC yesterday reiterated that, since a presidential candidate and running mate run on a joint ticket, the deadline for the submission of the names is April 28.

The deadline, which is six days after conclusion of party primaries, applies to presidential candidates as well as contestants for other seats who will have been nominated by their parties. 

IEBC Director for Legal and Public Affairs Chrispine Owiye confirmed that the presidential contenders have until April 28 to present their names as well as that of their running mates for clearance.

“The names of both principal and running mate are sent together. They are one package,” Mr Owiye told the Nation.

With the nominations set to end on April 22, IEBC wants political parties, coalitions, and coalition political parties to submit names of candidates intending to run on their tickets for the presidential, governor, senator, woman representative, MP, and member of the county assembly. 

Candidates for President and governor are therefore expected to also name their intended deputies. With just two weeks to the deadline, Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga’s strategists have embarked on a critical analysis of the best possible running mates, who would become deputy President should either win the August 9 General Election.

Some of those touted for the running mate position in Dr Ruto’s fold are Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki as well as MPs Alice Wahome (Kandara) and Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu).

Mr Gachagua, Ms Waiguru, Ms Wahome and Mr Nyoro are seeking to defend their current positions.

Whoever is picked as DP Ruto’s running mate has to drop their interest in the MP seat.

“We are still consulting within UDA and the Kenya Kwanza Alliance on my role in William Ruto's administration. I am available to offer my services to my country in any position subject to the consensus of the people of Tharaka Nithi and party members of  UDA,” Prof Kindiki told the Nation.

On Mr Odinga’s side, the front runners are Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka — who deputised him in the 2013 and 2017 elections — 2013 presidential candidates Peter Kenneth and Martha Karua as well as Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua is also eyeing the position.

The chairman of Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign board Ndiritu Muriithi and chairman of Dr Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, Johnson Muthama, yesterday exuded confidence that their camps will produce the best tickets capable of winning the August elections.

“We are spoilt for choice. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that we have a galaxy of high quality prospects on our side compared to our opponents. This election is for us to lose,” said Mr Muriithi, who is also the Laikipia Governor.

Mr Muthama said: “On the running mate position, there is no panic at all on our side. We are set but we don’t want to be the very first ones to do everything. We are however, ready to meet the deadline and there is no vacuum on our side.”

Mr Odinga’s campaign spokesperson Prof Makau Mutua listed the factors the coalition is considering in the selection of a running mate.

These include integrity, ability to gel with the principal, the numbers the candidate is likely to bring to the coalition, and a ticket that reflects the face of Kenya irrespective of what their opponents do.

“We are focusing on all regions and since women and girls also constitute the largest percentage of Kenyans, obviously we will be considering female candidates as well,” Prof Mutua told the Nation.

In the DP’s camp, the latest entry of Mr Muturi, the third in the pecking order after President Kenyatta and DP Ruto, political analysts say, has unsettled the running mate equation in Kenya Kwanza team.

He joined Kenya Kwanza, which also has DP’s UDA, ANC led by Mr Mudavadi, Ford Kenya of Moses Wetang’ula and Farmers Party of former Principal Secretary Irungu Nyakera.

By virtue of his position and political clout, Mr Muturi’s move now puts him slightly above other members of the coalition, with a possibility of clinching the running mate slot, especially being a native of Mt Kenya region where the DP is highly expected to select his deputy.

“The running mate issue is subject to discussions and consultations. But we agreed to work together because no single party will win and form a government on its own,” DP National Chairman Essau Kioni said.

Prof Gitile Naituli of Multi Media University argued that the politics of Mt Kenya East and Mt Kenya West might play out in Mr Muturi’s favour since he hails from the East which has never held a position at the presidency.

Mt Kenya East covers Meru, Embu — where Mr Muturi comes from — and Tharaka Nithi counties while Mt Kenya West has Murang’a, Kiambu, Nyeri and Kirinyaga.

“Muturi’s entry does change Ruto’s running mate equation as it will elicit the politics of Mt Kenya East and West. East will obviously tell the Kikuyus in the West to support them to get the position since all the presidents have been produced by the Westerners,” Prof Naituli told the Nation.

Even then, he said, Dr Ruto is best served elsewhere.

“What could be a game changer for Ruto, I believe, is if Mudavadi is the running mate. If its Muturi and Odinga doesn’t take Karua then that is significant,” Prof Naituli added.

But Murang’a senator Irungu Kang’ata, as well as MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili) and Daniel Rono (Keiyo South) said Mr Muturi’s entry into the DP’s fold does not in any way change his running mate equation.

“At all times, we knew he supports DP. Therefore, we had him in our calculations. Yes, he is a senior politician and therefore has advantage. The DP will weigh each aspirant accordingly,” said Mr Kang’ata.