Kenya: Candidates back to the people after cancellation of election

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Polling clerks. IEBC is preparing for a presidential election in 60 days. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

It is back to the drawing board for the campaign teams of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main challenger Raila Odinga – thanks to the historic ruling by the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice David Maraga invalidating the incumbent’s re-election.

While a fresh election was not an entirely unanticipated scenario, this is going to be the first of its kind in Kenya’s – and indeed Africa’s – electoral history.

Friday’s determination by the Supreme Court has no doubt wrong-footed some political players and fresh plans have to be undertaken by November 1.

Although unhappy with the court ruling, President Kenyatta is glad to have been accorded a second chance and has hit the ground running.

Moments after the Supreme Court invalidated his win on Friday afternoon, the President and Deputy President William Ruto toured parts of Nairobi.

And yesterday they met Jubilee governors and Members of County Assemblies — along with those from affiliated parties — at State House, Nairobi.

IEBCOVERHAUL IEBC

He assured his supporters that he was ready for the contest and expressed optimism that he would triumph “yet again”.

But Mr Odinga, on the other hand, is prioritising the difficult legal path of kicking out officials of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) — or at least some officials in the secretariat. Members of Mr Odinga’s Nasa have vowed not to participate in the fresh poll in a contest presided over by IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba.

“We wish to join those leaders calling for a comprehensive overhaul of the IEBC following the massive mismanagement of the August 8 General Election. Actually Chebukati, Chiloba and the ICT boss should face the law pronto,” Mr George Osotsi, the Secretary-General of Amani National Congress, told the Nation.

Mr Odinga faces an even more uneven political playing field. The election results at the other levels of Senate, National and County assemblies, as well as governors, indicate that Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee enjoys a super majority. Ahead of last Friday’s ruling, the Jubilee brigade argued that this fact demonstrated Mr Kenyatta’s win in the presidential election.

And going forward, the story is bound to be the same, as the Jubilee campaigners will most likely advance the argument that Nasa lacks the requisite numbers in Parliament to effectively rule and push its agenda through. This promises to be a major factor against the Nasa campaign.

QUICK POSTMOTERM

Prof Amukowa Anangwe, a political scientist, observes that what worked in the last campaigns may not necessarily work this time round.

According to Prof Anangwe, who teaches at the University of Dodoma in Tanzania, campaign strategies must change.

“Before embarking on the second round of campaigns, the teams must undertake a quick postmortem. They have to carry out a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis before laying out remedial approaches to win over the electorate,” says the former Cabinet minister.

However, except for the fact that the upcoming poll involves one ballot and is bound to have leaner personnel managing it, Prof Macharia Munene sees no major differences in approaches between the two polls.

“The strategy is bound to be same, only that now the race is less crowded. A lot of energy will also be released to the campaigns by recently elected leaders in support of their preferred presidential candidates,” observes the history and international relations lecturer at the United States International University-Africa.

Indeed, the conclusion of other ballots releases key players and lead campaigners to do battle separately for Jubilee and Nasa. Some of the big names that retreated from the national stage to their local constituencies and counties as the election peaked, will now all be available for campaigns, making it a more exciting and highly competitive affair.

MOVING CROWDS

The newly elected leaders, including governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) and Mike Mbuvi Sonko (Nairobi), among others, who are good at moving crowds, could assume key roles in the campaigns.

Similarly, those who lost out in the polls have a last chance of bouncing back to relevance by getting their preferred candidates elected.

This group includes, but is not limited to, the following exciting campaigners: Ababu Namwamba, who unsuccessfully vied for Budalang’i parliamentary seat, and gubernatorial poll losers Dr Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Martha Karua (Kirinyaga), Ali Chirau Mwakwere (Kwale), Hassan Omar (Mombasa) and Gideon Mung’aro (Kilifi).

The campaign script may be further re-adjusted, especially in tune with the way the poll results have panned out.

Some of the politicians and pointmen allied to Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, for instance, did not deliver the presidential vote as envisaged. In fact, some even failed to individually get elected.

PENETRATE COASTAL REGION

It remains a tricky affair whether, for example, President Kenyatta will still rely on the likes of Mr Mung’aro to penetrate the Odinga-leaning coastal region or Mr Namwamba to make inroads in western Kenya region, which also largely voted for the Nasa presidential candidate in the poll invalidated on Friday. The two, who were formerly allied to Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), failed in their quest to win the Kilifi governor’s seat and Budalang’i parliamentary seat, respectively.

Similarly, Mr Odinga may have to reconsider his charges in a number of regions, including the Rift Valley and Nairobi. His key pointman in Rift Valley, for instance, is former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto who has since gone quiet since his poll defeat to Jubilee’s Joyce Laboso. The Nasa co-principal conceded defeat and has flatly rejected invitations by backers in Nasa and his Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) to challenge Dr Laboso’s win in court.

“Whether or not he was a victim of the so-called computer generated results, Ruto appears to have been hit hard. It is unlikely that he will stick his neck out for Raila again,” opines Prof Anangwe.

NAIROBI CAMPAIGNS

If the vocal politician continues on this lukewarm note, then Nasa’s presidential campaign in the Rift Valley is bound to be in a quandary.

The other key figure from the region in Mr Odinga’s campaign is former Agriculture Minister Kipruto arap Kirwa, who, like Mr Ruto, has not been  visible after Nasa’s unimpressive performance in the region.

And although he registered more votes than Mr Kenyatta in Nairobi, Mr Odinga has to re-organise his team in the capital city county.

This follows the exit of former county boss, Dr Evans Kidero, from the political scene. Dr Kidero, who co-ordinated and reportedly financed Nasa’s campaigns in the city, has conceded defeat to his successor – Mr Mike Mbuvi Sonko – and has indicated that he will not petition the election of the Jubilee politician.

PETITIONS   

Having petitioned Mr Kenyatta’s win, ODM director of elections, Junet Mohamed, observes, they are more prepared for the elections: “We had a lot of faith that we would go back to the polls, since we were convinced that the August 8 poll was terribly polluted. We actually never dismantled our campaign system and personnel on the ground.”

Speaking on Friday, the President said his campaign team had a “straight strategy that delivered results”. He reiterated he would not change strategy. Owing to the limited time left, Prof Anangwe concurs that “consolidating strongholds and partial raids in perceived backyards of opponents” is a most realistic approach.

 

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