Prime Minister Raila Odinga has hatched a plan to split his rivals’ presidential votes hoping it will hand him an upper hand in the race to State House in the next election.
The strategy involves pushing for his competitors Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who are facing charges at the International Criminal Court, to be allowed to contest.
However, his rivals argue that they are aware of the plot and would come up with a counter plan that will deny the PM the chance to garner 50 per cent plus one vote which is required to hand him victory in the first round.
Mr Ruto argues that their plan will aim to ensure a candidate from the G7 Alliance wins during the first round of the vote to avoid a run-off.
“We want the game to be finished in the first round so we can avoid a run-off,” says the URP leader. Read (Mudavadi, Raila head to Ruto’s turf in vote hunt)
Mr Odinga surprised many this week when he invited foreign correspondents to his Nairobi office and told them that he wanted the names of Mr Kenyatta of the TNA Alliance and Mr Ruto to be on the ballot paper as presidential candidates on March 4, 2013.
He justified his declaration by stating that it would allow Kenyans a wider variety of leaders to choose their next President from.
“All those competing for the top seat need to be on the ballot. This will give Kenyans a right to choose their preferred leaders. There will be no reason for anyone to say that Raila prevented them from vying for an elective seat,” he said.
The PM’s position was a radical departure from his stand in March this year when he fell short of calling for the detention of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto on grounds that they were facing worse crimes than murder at the International Criminal Court yet they were freely going around the country holding prayer rallies.
He submitted that criminals accused of murder were languishing in maximum prisons scattered in various towns across the country.
“Crimes against humanity are worse than murder. Yet these suspects remain free to traverse the country holding ‘prayer meetings’ while Kenyan suspects of the lesser crime of murder conduct their prayers behind prison,” he said.
At the time, Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo had just tabled a UK dossier- which the Speaker could not declare forged or not- indicating that the PM was working with the UK to ensure Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta were locked out of the presidential race.
On Friday, ODM’s joint chief whip Jakoyo Midiwo and a member of the PM’s think tank Prof Larry Gumbe sought to clarify Mr Odinga’s change of heart saying their preferred candidate would like to win the next elections without any doubts in the minds of voters.
Mr Midiwo, the Gem MP and close ally of the PM said the Orange party took a decision not to oppose the push by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to contest the presidency. Mr Odinga, he said, had no powers to block the two from running for State House.
“As ODM, we cannot decide whether Ruto or Uhuru will run. The law will take its own course but the decision for them to contest is not dependent on the PM,” he said.
He argued that the two leaders, alongside Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi of the United Democratic Forum (UDF), were selling themselves to voters as the best candidates and a chance to face to face Mr Odinga at the ballot box would prove their “posturing” wrong.
“Let them contest so that people see who they are-small candidates who cannot be compared to the PM. Wacha watu wakutane uwanjani (Let the candidates meet at the ballot box),” he said.
Prof Gumbe submitted that the PM wanted to free himself from accusations by his rivals that he was working with the ICC to block their candidature so that he can easily succeed President Kibaki.
He stated that the PM wanted the two to be tried locally.
“The PM has always maintained that they should be on the ballot box because these people have accused him of taking them to The Hague. That is why he said they be allowed to contest so that Kenyans know who they really are,” he said on phone.
Mr Midiwo and Prof Gumbe defended the PM’s harsh remarks against Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto in March arguing that they were issued in a different context.
They argued that Mr Odinga was irked by inciting words from the prayer rallies and felt they should have been locked up.
“The PM said they should not be going around the country inciting people during their prayer rallies,” he explained.
In May, Mr Odinga held talks with the United Kingdom minister for Africa Henry Bellingham in London over the issue but the British government said it will not change its position about the ICC cases.
Asked whether the decision had been driven by the entry of Mr Mudavadi into the race, Prof Gumbe dismissed the Sabatia MP and Mr Ruto as leaders who cannot be trusted.
Dujis MP Aden Duale contends that Mr Kenyatta will marshal votes in Central Kenya, Mr Ruto in the Rift Valley, Mr Mudavadi in Western Kenya, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka in Eastern, Cabinet minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere at the Coast and him in North Eastern Kenya.