Serious grassroots campaigns are going on in the six counties of the Coast region as allies of key presidential hopefuls go all out to deliver votes to their party.
The region is seen as one of those likely to deliver the swing votes that have potential to determine who the next occupant of State House will be. At least all the contenders for the top job have in the recent past visited all or most of the counties while positioning allies to silently woo the locals to their camps.
Already, the United Republican Party (URP) led by Eldoret North MP William Ruto, The National Alliance (TNA) led by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi are exuding confidence in a region where the majority voted for the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in the last elections in 2007.
Mr Kenyatta’s TNA claims it has Lamu County under lock and key; Mr Ruto’s URP claims Tana River County.
In a telephone interview, Gender minister Naomi Shaaban said the TNA would capture the region due to its development policies, youthful leadership and focus on pertinent issues affecting the residents.
“Politics of chest-thumping and empty rhetoric do not have a place in the new dispensation where good leadership record and clear policies on macro-economics are the in-thing,” she said.
Mr Ruto’s corner also views Kwale County as a friendly zone riding on the perceived influence of Environment minister and Matuga MP Chirau Mwakwere.
In a recent telephone interview after his tour of the region, Mr Ruto expressed confidence that he would win 17 of the 26 constituencies in the region.
“For a presidential candidate to dictate terms in the next Parliament, he/she must have a power base at the constituency level not to end up being a duck for frying in the management of public affairs,” he says.
His Coast pointman, former Lands assistant minister Anania Mwaboza, declared that after the holy month of Ramadhan, URP would mount a vigorous campaign that will see the party take charge of the region for keeps.
He said the party’s presence was already being felt in all corners of the region and what remained was only a “mopping up” operation to control the grassroots support. “We are felt in every corner of the region but others are only heard,” he said.
But Mr Hassan Joho, ODM’s national organising secretary, maintained that his party had rock-solid support and an unmatched winning formula.
“As ODM, we are ready for them. We are very well prepared on the ground, and I do not see how they will get a foothold in an ODM zone,” he said.
But Mvita MP Najib Balala says coastal people want a homegrown party and so dismissed those claiming particular voting blocks. “You see, it is the people of the Coast who want their own party, and this will happen after the holy month of Ramadhan,” Mr Balala, who is out of the country, told the Sunday Nation by phone on Saturday.
To ensure a co-ordinated campaign for UDF, Mombasa aspirant for governor Suleiman Shahbal was elected to lead a caucus to spearhead party affairs in the region.
Mr Shahbal says UDF belonged to all coastal people who want to see end of marginalisation.