Kalonzo’s tough election options as time runs out
Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka is walking a tightrope as he decides between listening to hardliners pushing him to go it alone in the August 9 General-Election or join Raila Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja movement.
With two days before Azimio La Umoja affiliate parties congregate in Nairobi to declare Raila their flag-bearer, Kalonzo finds himself between a rock and a hard place on whether to abandon his ambitions and play second fiddle to the ODM leader or close ranks with Deputy President William Ruto.
Sources within the Azimio fraternity confided to People Daily that so frustrated are Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta with Kalonzo that they have “decided to leave him alone to decide by himself.”
It was on that basis that Raila on Monday told Kalonzo, and a section of his One Kenya Alliance leaders who have been dilly-dallying on whether to join the coalition or not, that nobody would force them.
“This is a coalition of the willing. Nobody is being coerced to join Azimio. Those who will come to the Saturday meeting are those who subscribe to the ideologies of Azimio, which is a unity of purpose,” Raila said in reference to Kalonzo’s apparent flip-flopping.
By last evening, Kalonzo’s close associates and confidantes were said to have heightened their engagements with Raila and Uhuru emissaries, with some sources hinting at a possibility of “white smoke” appearing as early as today.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, one of Kalonzo’s close allies, confirmed that “talks were ongoing with several parties.” He, however, declined to name those involved.
“Let me not tell you everything but we are in talks and something positive is likely to come out of them. It is a matter of time before we tell Kenyans which way we shall be going,” Wambua told People Daily.
The Wiper leader has been blowing hot and cold over his relationship with Raila, with whom he ran in the last two elections as running mate.
Last week, Kalonzo tabled a 2017 National Super Alliance (Nasa) partnership agreement with Raila as the reference document for coalition talks with Azimio.
The 2017 secret document provided that Raila would stand down for Kalonzo in 2022 whether or not he won the election.
A week earlier, Kalonzo had turned up at a Jubilee Party National Delegates Conference (NDC) presided over by Uhuru, affirming his support for Azimio La Umoja.
Sources intimated to People Daily that it was Kalonzo’s move to welcome Gatundu South MP and leader of Chama Cha Kazi (CCK), Moses Kuria, who immediately started issuing new demands for joining Azimio, that appeared to upset Uhuru.
“The President was not happy when he saw Kalonzo joining Kuria at a press conference to issue new demands only two days after they had a meeting at State House and agreed on the way forward,” the highly placed source, that declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said.
Insiders say Kalonzo may have betrayed his sincerity by appearing to enter into a working arrangement with Kuria, whom the President considers a close ally of Ruto.
“Both the President and Raila have since decided to leave the ball in Kalonzo’s court to avoid a situation of being seen to be pushing him,” added the source.
With only today and tomorrow to decide on whether to join Raila, pundits believe Kalonzo’s options could be narrowing down to either him becoming the OKA presidential flag-bearer, unconditionally joining Azimio or rejoining his former Nasa colleagues Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance headed by Ruto.
Kalonzo has been under pressure from hardliners in his camp to go it alone if he is not the Azimio presidential candidate.
Political analyst Dismas Mokua contends that should Kalonzo decide to be on the ballot, he is likely to eat into Raila’s vote base and deny any of the candidates a round-one victory.
Mokua argues that should Kalonzo decide to back the former Prime Minister’s bid, the probability of Raila winning in round one will be high.
“If Azimio will be anchored by Jubilee, ODM and OKA, the arrangement substantially increases probability of Raila winning in round one because Kalonzo has the capacity to transfer a huge bloc of his vote,” he said.
He added: “Probability of a Raila win is substantially diminished without Kalonzo support. Raila needs Kalonzo to win and Ruto does not need Kalonzo to win, that is why Raila needs to address pending issues as a matter of urgency.”
Another political analyst Javas Bigambo argued that Raila’s Monday statement, coming on the heels of his recent tour of Machakos County with the three Ukambani governors, is a manifestation of Kalonzo’s waning influence in the region.
“If he runs, he will come third. He really has to make up his mind, and time is actually running out,” said Bigambo.
However, Kalonzo’s allies maintain they are not going for anything less than a presidential ticket in the grand coalition that will bring together Azimio and OKA.
Mwingi Central MP Gedion Mulyungi told People Daily that their irreducible minimum is that Kalonzo be made the presidential flag bearer.
“Negotiations are still ongoing and we hope that communication will be made before the end of the week. We have given our irreducible minimum that we are going for the presidential ticket under the grand coalition for now,” said Mulyungi.
He, however, ruled out that Wiper and by extension, the OKA coalition will join KKA that brings together UDA, Amani National Congress and Ford Kenya.
“We cannot join Kenya Kwanza because most of their leaders have integrity issues. Joining them is not an option. Their ideologies differ from ours. We have something in common with Azimio that is why we are in talks,” he added.
Matungulu MP Stephen Mule said that Kalonzo cannot make a decision alone on whether he should join Azimio or not.
“Kalonzo is already in OKA with other principals and he cannot make a decision alone. But what we know is that we cannot join Kenya Kwanza. We hope that the negotiations will be concluded on the three pillar coalition of Azimio, OKA and Jubilee,” said Mule.
Mokua argued that governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Alfred Mutua (Machakos) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) have no capacity to move the region’s vote.
“Voters have an emotional and irrational connection with Kalonzo and will punish anybody who has mistreated him. That is why he made the Raila-Kalonzo agreement public,” said Mokua.