Kenya: Presidential Race to Begin
Presidential Race to Begin
Nairobi — The race to be Kenya's fourth president is expected to gain momentum in the New Year with general elections expected in August or December, depending on the outcome of a court case later this month.
Almost 20 Kenyans have expressed interest in seeking the country's top job though opinion polls place few of them as front runners. The threshold for victory in the next election is made even higher by the fact the Constitution requires the winner to poll at least 50 per cent of votes and 25 per cent in 24 counties.
A major headache for the leading presidential aspirants is that they have attracted opposition in their own backyards. The aspirants are also faced with the challenge of selecting key political strategists, parties and running mates.
When Raila Odinga came close to the presidency in 2007, he hardly faced any opposition in his western region stronghold. This time around, however, Odinga, whose roots are in Nyanza, has a local headache to contend with--whether to retain his deputy leader in the Orange party, Musalia Mudavadi, who hails from neighbouring Western Province, as his running mate.
The other challenge--seen as a big issue by his rivals and a nuisance by his avowed supporters--is the presidential ambition of former minister Raphael Tuju, who hails from Luo Nyanza. He has tried to distance himself from accusations that he is a spoiler for the PM. Tuju has as well had to live with the notion that he is a Kibaki project, having worked as an advisor to the president until 2011.
Other than working to fight the notion that Kenya should not have another Kikuyu president after Kibaki, Uhuru Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister, has to contend with a list of aspirants from central Kenya.
Former Justice minister Martha Karua and assistant minister Peter Kenneth are the other key players from the region, who have declared their interest in the presidency. The duo has declined persistent offer by Kenyatta to jointly hold nominations so that the region has a single presidential candidate.
How rivalries are panning out
Karua is also facing her own political battles on her home turf of Kirinyaga County where Kenyatta's allies are fighting to neutralise her threat to the deputy prime minister's bid. And she has to fend off pressure from elders and businesspeople from central Kenya to abandon her presidential bid and support Kenyatta.
Eldoret North MP William Ruto is taking the shot at the presidency for the first time after supporting Odinga in 2007 before they fell out. His major headache is turning out to be professionals from his Kalenjin community, who accuse him of selfish agenda.
For Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, who came in third in the 2007 race, the greatest challenge in his Ukambani region remains his rivalry with Water minister Charity Ngilu.
Their differences have more than once played out in public with the most infamous being the refusal by Ngilu to shake Musyoka's hand on cameras. Ngilu and a group of MPs from Ukambani, including Wavinya Ndeti and Kiema Kilonzo, have openly voiced their frustration with the way the VP plays politics in the area.
Internal Security minister George Saitoti is another aspirant who has lingering local issues as he seeks a solid launching pad for the tough war ahead. Prof. Saitoti, the Kajiado North MP, has also to contend with the fact that Education ministry permanent secretary James ole Kiyapi, who comes from Kilgoris in neighbouring Narok County, also seeks the local community's endorsement for the highest office in the land.
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