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2022 headaches steal merry from candidates’ Christmas

Friday, December 24th, 2021 00:00 | By
Deputy President William Ruto (right) and ODM leader Raila Odinga meet during a Jamhuri Day celebrations event at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi. PHOTO/Courtesy
Deputy President William Ruto (right) and ODM leader Raila Odinga meet during a Jamhuri Day celebrations event at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi. PHOTO/Courtesy

Jeremiah Kiplang’at

Leading presidential candidates have retreated for the Christmas and New Year holidays ahead of a gruelling campaigns culminating in the August 2022 General Election.

With eight months to the polls, the candidates will spend the festive season away from the often raucous political rallies but with close aides revealing that most of them plan to use the break to firm up strategies for the upcoming election.

Those who have publicly declared their presidential bid are Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and the One Kenya Alliance principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula and Gideon Moi.

Yesterday, the leaders indicated they would spend the festive season with their families, but with others saying they plan to use the time to host delegations and attend social activities.

For years now, Ruto has been hosting a string of delegations at his rural home in Sugoi in between the festivities as he takes time away from the rigorous countrywide travels he has become known for.

His rival, Raila, has also been hosting close associates during the season at his homes in Siaya and Kisumu counties.

Yesterday, ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna said Raila would spend the holiday at his Opoda farm in Bondo, Siaya.

“We are now on holiday for the Christmas festivities. Raila is on vacation until January. He is resting with his family at home,” said Sifuna.

Cultural festival

Other sources said Raila had met Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), James Ongwae (Kisii) and Kisumu’s Anyang’ Nyong’o at his Riat Hills home in Kisumu county after a ceremonial train ride from Fort Ternan to the lake city on Wednesday. He was seen with the same leaders yesterday morning.

Ruto’s spokesman, Emmanuel Talam, said the DP would spend the festive season at his Sugoi home in Uasin Gishu county.

“He is attending the burial of our late Chief of Staff Ken Osinde in Nakuru county at this hour.

From there, he is retreating to Sugoi to spend Christmas and New Year with his family. He doesn’t have any engagements so far,” Talam said yesterday.

Sources close to Mudavadi said the ANC leader would spend the holiday break at his Mululu home in Vihiga county where he is expected to preside over the annual Maragoli cultural festival at Mbale stadium on Boxing Day.

“Boss will be in Mululu for Christmas, he will preside over the cultural festival on December 26 where he will be joined by various leaders,” said an aide.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, speaking through an aide, said he will spend the festive season at his Karen home.

“He is just around; he will be at Karen during the festive season but I’ll let you know if there are any change of plans,” said the aide.

Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula will spend Christmas at his Sirisia home in Bungoma county before joining Mudavadi for the annual cultural festival on Boxing Day.

“Party leader will spend Christmas at his Sirisia home. He will then head to Mululu, Sabatia constituency for the Maragoli Cultural festival on December 26.

On December 31, he will attend the Bumbe sports extravaganza in Funyula, Busia county,” said his close aide and Ford Kenya national organising secretary Chris Mandu Mandu.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula confirmed that the ANC brigade will be in Vihiga county on Boxing Day for the cultural event.

“We will all be there, I cannot confirm whether the other OKA principals will come, we left it to Musalia to organise,” he said.

Presidential candidate Mukhisa Kituyi said he will spend Christmas with his family in Malindi before returning on December 27 to prepare for the launch of his political party.

With time fast running out, supporters of the leading contenders especially Ruto and Raila are expecting the duo to give indications on the their possible running mates, a decision widely expected to trigger realignments with consequential effects on the contest. 

And the party primaries slated for April, the presidential candidates will have to strategise and give directions on whether they will approach the elections as coalitions or individual parties. 

It will also be a major test for the party leaders to come up with mechanism that will enable them survive possible fallouts or defections.

While Raila seems to be racing against time to assemble the Azimio la Umoja Movement, Ruto has insisted on building a single political party on which he  will run for the presidency.

Focus will also be on the OKA principals to name their presidential candidate, a move that is expected to put their unity to a major test.

The candidate will also be expected to pick a running mate from either outside the alliance. 

For Raila, a number of names have been mentioned as possible running mates including Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, agriculture Cabinet secretary Peter Munya and Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua.

His choice will likely be informed by how the coalition building, that starts January, pans out and whether the OKA principals will join Azimio.

Ruto has indicated he might pick Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, a close confidante who has quickly risen above most contestants to be the frontrunner for this role.

Others who have been mentioned are Anne Waiguru and The Service Party leader Mwangi Kiunjuri who appears to have fallen out with the DP over his insistence on his allies to fold their small parties and join UDA.

For OKA, their future largely depends on whether they build a third force or force a coalition with the leading two.

Further, February 9 will mark a big turning point in the electoral cycle as all civil servants who are vying for political seats are required to resign.

The law demands that they must be out of office six months to the polls.

After the festivities, the leaders will welcome 2022 with their eyes firmly fixed on the August 2022 prize.

The ball was this week set rolling for what the country should expect as the elections draw closer as the two camps that are getting ready to battle for Uhuru’s replacement took on each other in the National Assembly on Wednesday over the controversial Political Parties (amendment) Bill.

Coalition of parties

The Bill seeks to allow a coalition of parties to field a candidate in the coming elections.

The proponents say the Bill will allow the registration of Raila’s Azimio La Umoja coalition as a party and clear the way for it to field its own candidates in the coming elections.

Presently, a coalition cannot sponsor a candidate as one must belong to a party or is an independent candidate to vie for a seat.

Also, the Bill aims to effectively force a party to enter into a coalition six months before the General Election, a proposal critics say is aimed at forcing fence-sitters including the OKA principals to either join Ruto or Raila, or name their flag-bearer by February 2022.

Ruto and Mudavadi’s allies have fiercely opposed the amendments, reading malice in its proposed changes.

According to them, the move favours Raila’s Azimio movement and his camp’s attempt to build a coalition of individual parties that will field candidates.

Debate on the Bill was postponed after Deputy Speaker Moses Cheboi referred it to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee for consideration after Ruto allies tabled 17 amendments.

From next month, Ruto and Raila, who are perceived to be the leading candidates in the presidential race, will seek to impose their control on Parliament.

Both Houses of Parliament will be critical as they will be expected to handle laws that are often brought late in an attempt to sway the poll outcome.

It was clear on Wednesday that going forward the supremacy battle between the two will not be confined to political rallies but also in the law-making premises.

Numbers matter in both Houses and the candidate with a controlling stake would find it easy to pass laws that would be friendlier to the causes ahead of elections expected to be closely contested.

Major meeting

Raila and Ruto have often claimed to have the control of the Assembly numbers but on Wednesday Ruto’s team came short as it had only 68 members against 113 in Raila’s camp when a vote was put on extension of time for debate on the Bill.

Whereas the Bill was crucial, the exchange turned to who had more numbers as the members went after each other before and after debate on the Bill was postponed.

“We have been told about 150 MPs supporting a particular (Ruto’s) cause, you can see when we come to the floor of this House the members are hardly 20 and that is why they are making noise,” said Minority Leader John Mbadi.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany, a Ruto ally, said they had numbers but had not planned to employ them during the session.

Other than the push to pass the Bill, Raila’s team will also be looking to firm up its Azimio La Umoja movement.

His team said they are planning a major meeting with all the parties that have declared support for Azimio early in the year. 

This is expected to lead to the formation of a coalition to house all the parties. Raila will also expect President Uhuru Kenyatta to formally declare his support for his bid.

For Ruto, he will return to the meet-the-people tours in January with a big decision to make on whether he should continue insisting on vying for the presidency under UDA without the support of fringe parties or start building a coalition with interested outfits. 

Ruto has often asked those willing to join UDA to fold their parties and join his but that has been met with resistance.

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