Candidates in final push for Mt Kenya’s 6 million votes
Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga have lined up a series of meetings in the Mt Kenya region in a last-ditch push to sway voters in the region their way.
The region that boasts close to 5.8 million votes will remain a battlefield for the two leading presidential candidates right until the last week of the campaign period that ends on August 7, showing how critical the region is to them.
Campaign schedules for the two indicate they will make a final push for support in the region with their running-mates tasked with leading the battle although the principals will join them for big rallies to be held in some of the key counties.
The duo’s running-mates Rigathi Gachagua(Kenya Kwanza) and Martha Karua (Azimio) have already been sent to the region to set the ground ready for their ultimate vote-hunting missions ahead of the elections in 17 days.
After their debate on Tuesday, the two rushed to the region they hail from with Gachagua addressing a series of rallies in Muranga while Karua was in her home county of Kirinyaga.
They celebrated their performances during the heated verbal battle held at the Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA) while asking residents to support their camps.
Speaking in Nyeri yesterday, Karua promoted Raila’s candidature saying he was the only one ready to fight corruption beseeching the residents to back them.
“The only team that will improve your living standards is Team Azimio led by Raila,” she said.
In Murang’a, Gachagua said the region was fully behind Ruto saying no effort by the outgoing Jubilee administration will succeed in undoing his support.
“They are reducing the prices of unga to entice you to vote for Raila, we want to tell Uhuru the people of the mountain will not change their minds they will vote for Ruto to a man,” he said in Kiharu, Murang’a.
Ruto, who is running for the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, commences his final Mt Kenya tour on Tuesday with visits to Nakuru and Nyandarua before heading to Nyeri, Muranga and Kirinyaga on Wednesday. On Thursday, he will be in Embu, Meru and Tharaka-Nithi.
In an indication that he is not taking any chances with the region’s massive votes, he will go back on August 2 and will move around the region for three consecutive days ending with a rally in Kiambu, which is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s home county, on August 4.
His allies led by Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru have focused on selling Ruto for the last three months with the focus on ensuring a higher turnout following fears of voter apathy that could negatively impact the DP’s numbers in the region. “Our resolve is to popularise our agenda even further on the ground, get 100 per cent vote out on August 9 and ensure UDA carries the day in all elective seats,” said Waiguru.
Raila sees the region as critical in tilting the race in his favour. His choice of Karua as his running mate was to attempt to expand his base in a region he has never attracted any significant support in his previous four attempts at the presidency.
Suna East MP Junet Mohammed, a senior figure in Raila’s campaign team, said they will make a final bid for more votes in Mt Kenya.
“The remaining days will be a defining period for us. We have to reach all areas and sell our policies to our supporters,” said Junet.
According to the Suna East MP, they will divide themselves into three groups that will be spread across the country.
Raila has indicated that he will return to Central Kenya for a three-day campaign tour and address a key rally in Kirigiti Stadium in Kiambu county.
The President has also been promoting Raila’s candidature in the region although he is not expected to go for intense bidding for him on the ground before the polls. During the debate on Tuesday, Karua distanced their campaign from the President, who is the Azimio chairman, saying he had little influence on their programmes.
“His party (Jubilee) will have a role and if he does not give his position in the council to anyone else it would be a peripheral role as a member of the party. The incoming administration will be a Raila Odinga-Azimio presidency,” she said. Recent opinion polls have shown Ruto’s support firming up despite efforts to break his stranglehold of the region with over 5.8 million votes.