Sunday, December 23, 2012

Western voters keep their options open

By JUSTUS WANGA  jwanga@ke.nationmedia.com

As major political alliances move to consolidate support in their perceived strongholds, Western province is living up to the dictum of not keeping all of one’s eggs in one basket.

All the national alliances have a strong presence there.

Hopes of getting the region to vote as a bloc have all but fizzled out with the four presidential aspirants from the area opting for different political camps.

They are Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mr Cyrus Jirongo, Mr Eugene Wamalwa and Mr Moses Wetang’ula.

The latest such efforts fronted last month by Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli did not bear fruit.

Mr Mudavadi was in the Jubilee coalition that brought together his party UDF, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA and Mr William Ruto’s URP before he was dropped from the arrangement after talks to have him picked as the torch bearer collapsed.

He had insisted that the alliance uses consensus to settle on either him or Mr Kenyatta while a group allied to Mr Kenyatta insisted on delegates taking a vote.

Mr Wetang’ula belongs to the Cord alliance that is made up of Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM party, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka’s WDM together with Ford-Kenya party, his political vehicle.

Both Mr Wamalwa and Mr Jirongo found a home in Pambazuka alliance, what was then referred to as the likely third force in the ongoing realignments.

Mr Wamalwa has since joined ranks with other contenders, Mr Peter Kenneth and Mr Raphael Tuju, in an outfit christened The Eagle.

There are leaders from the region such as Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya and his Local Government counterpart Paul Otuoma who have remained steadfast in ODM even as others switched loyalty and moved with Mr Mudavadi to UDF.

They thus remain a vital conduit Cord will be relying on to bag votes from Western Kenya.

NATIONAL AGENDA
  • ISSUE 1 - Job Creation
  • ISSUE 2 -Food Security
  • ISSUE 3 - Healthcare
  • ISSUE 4 - Education
  • ISSUE 5 - Energy
  • ISSUE 6 - Water & Environment
  • ISSUE 7 - Social Protection
  • ISSUE 8 - Public Infrastructure
  • ISSUE 9 - National Security & Foreign Policy
  • ISSUE 10 - Boosting Exports
  • ISSUE 11 - Devolution
  • ISSUE 12 - Ethnicity

Mr Oparanya comes from Butere, Kakamega County, while Mr Otuoma comes from Funyula, Busia County. In terms of popularity, Cord is seen favourably among possible voters in Busia compared to Kakamega that has the likes of firebrand Ikolomani legislator Boni Khalwale who are key UDF pillars.

Mr Oparanya accuses Mr Mudavadi, who is also the Sabatia MP, of having a personal vendetta against Mr Odinga.

“The PM is the right man to succeed President Kibaki, and Mr Mudavadi’s intention while crossing over to Jubilee was informed by a selfish motive, that of denying the Premier the presidency and it had nothing to do with the interests of this country,” he said.

The Butere MP, however, says they would welcome the DPM back to the Orange fold if he changed his mind after being sidelined by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto.

He says polarising the country on tribal lines was the worst mistake their competitors were making as they campaigned across the country.

Eshienywe ni shienywe, (translated to mean never abandon yours) slogan being used by UDF leaders will not bring any good to this country and it is absurd to conduct politics in the 21st century guided by our tribes,” he said while campaigning for Cord alliance in his Butere constituency last weekend.

Hamisi MP George Khaniri, who is a Mudavadi supporter, termed the decision by Jubilee to kick out UDF as proof that the duo had no regard for the rule of law. He vowed they would forge ahead with campaigns to sell Mr Mudavadi’s presidential bid.

“How could we have trusted them after forming government if honouring a small agreement signed in the presence of witnesses, that even included lawyers, is an issue?” he asked.

However, he says they are open to teaming up with other like-minded parties at the polls to pull a win in the first round so long as they offer to support Mr Mudavadi.

“Much as we remain open to working with other parties ahead of the March 4 elections, Mudavadi remains our man,” Mr Khaniri said.

The change of heart in the coalition may work to bolster the position taken by Mr Mudavadi’s competitors from Western who have maintained that he had been cheated into joining the Jubilee alliance.

Mr Wetang’ula, who has secured his position in Cord as either majority or minority leader in the bicameral legislature depending on the polls outcome, was among those who said Mr Mudavadi was duped into joining Jubilee.

“Mudavadi was cheated into joining an alliance that would not have given him a chance to lead ... this has become even clearer with his colleague going back on the agreement they had signed,” he said.

Kwanza MP Noah Wekesa says the reason the region may not rally behind Mr Mudavadi’s bid is what he calls the project tag.

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