Cord has launched what it calls an aggressive campaign to consolidate support in its strongholds ahead of next year’s General Election.
The campaign, which comes against the backdrop of a Jubilee insurgence in the coalition’s backyard, seeks to register all eligible voters to counter the so-called “tyranny of numbers” that denied it victory in 2013.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has pitched tent in the Cord stronghold of Coast for more than two weeks while Deputy President William Ruto has recently hosted leaders from Western and Gusii regions that supported the Opposition in the last election.
According to senior ODM officials, the registration bid targets votes from Nyanza, Western, Coast and Eastern, its traditional backyards.
Already, the coalition has tasked its legislators and governors to ensure their people apply for identity and voter cards.
TYRANNY OF NUMBERS
The Jubilee Alliance, in 2013, rode to power on what political pundits described as a tyranny of numbers, a term used to describe its numerical strength owing to the high number of MPs and senators elected.
But in what is seen as a counter to the Jubilee onslaught, Cord is now banking on votes from its backyard as it seeks to wrestle power from the ruling coalition come next year.
Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o told the Sunday Nation that the coalition, in its failed attempts to win the presidency in the past two elections, suffered low voter registration and turnouts from its strongholds.
The game plan, therefore, according to Prof Nyong’o, is to ensure that all the eligible voters have the documents to exercise their right to vote.
“We want to minimise the disadvantages that were witnessed in 2012 during the voter registration exercise which Jubilee used to rig the polls,” said Prof Nyong’o.
TURN NUMBERS INTO VOTES
Political analysts have pointed out that even though the Opposition enjoys support from across the country, their biggest undoing has been failure to turn these numbers into votes.
“The campaign for massive voter registration by Cord is a good step although a lot of work will have to be done to make the registered voters to turn out to vote.
This has been the missing link in previous elections,” said Mr Tom Mboya, a political science lecturer at Maseno University.
The same sentiments were echoed by University of Nairobi political science lecturer Adams Oloo, who argues that should Cord do its homework well, then it has a fair chance.
“If the arguments in 2013 that Jubilee invested in massive voter registration is anything to go by, then that means Cord’s basket is likely to be bigger should they maximise voter registration,” said Dr Oloo.
In the 2013 polls, an approximate 1.7 million voters cast their votes out of the 1.9 million registered, an 89 per cent turnout in Nyanza, according to the IEBC.
In western Kenya, 1.2 million voted out of the 1.4 million registered, representing 84 per cent turnout, while in coast, 2 million voted out of the 2.1 million registered.
But Jubilee is not just watching.
Elgeyo-Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen, while dismissing the strategy by Cord as short-sighted, said the thinking in Jubilee is to marshal support from across the country as opposed to its traditional backyard.
“As Jubilee, our focus is not only on the presidency but also to increase the number of governors, senators, MPs and MCAs across the country.
We have not ruled out any region in the country,” said Mr Murkomen.
This even as the IEBC announced that Cord regions of Nyanza, Western and Coast had recorded the highest number of new eligible voters ahead of 2017.
According to the IEBC statistics, of those eligible for registration as voters, Nyanza leads the pack with 616,000, followed by Western at 589,000.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s central backyard comes third at 538,000 with the Coast region recording the fourth highest with 512,000.
ODM national chairman John Mbadi said that whereas Central province over-registered by 125,000 votes during the voter registration exercise in 2012, Nyanza and Western were denied an opportunity to register 793,000 and 800,000 voters respectively.
It is on this premise that Mr Mbadi says the coalition is optimistic that apart from ensuring that the over 1.5 million voters that failed to register are tapped, they will ensure that thousands of school leavers and young women are given ID and voters cards.
“These areas were disadvantaged by IEBC that made sure that such areas were supplied with less BVR kits shared among polling stations in Cord strongholds while Jubilee areas had the kits in every polling station,” he added.
And during this week’s voter sensitisation in Homa Bay, the politicians present put the Jubilee Government on notice over any attempts to rig the elections.
“This time, Cord will not listen to the ‘accept and move on gospel’.
We will only accept the outcome of elections whose preparations, conduct, management and tallying are above board,” said Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang.
But according to Mr Mboya, the task ahead of the coalition may prove daunting, especially in marshalling the registered voters to turn out and cast the ballot on the material day.
“Cord first needs to reclaim the wider western region by endearing itself to the perceived vote-rich area. Only then will the voter registration favour it,” he said.
Mr Mbadi, however, termed the resurgence of Jubilee a result of a confidential report from the National Security Intelligence (NSI) that the ruling coalition has already lost a lot of ground due to poor governance.
The Suba MP said Jubilee was aware that they have already lost the votes of the country’s teachers, women and currently the church by coming up with oppressive legislation.
He said Cord was also not worried about those leading delegations to the home of the Deputy President because most of the leaders have all along been sympathetic to Jubilee.
“Nowhere in the whole world has an incumbent head of state started campaigning for re-election 18 months to the set date except one who is in panic,” said Mr Mbadi.
But Mr Murkomen said the ruling coalition was unmoved by the Opposition strategy, accusing it of resorting to what he called regional alignment in search of votes.
“They (Cord) are only practising tribal politics which anybody seeking election into a national office should not allow.
Cord should not be surprised if the new voters they are registering vote in Jubilee come 2017,” he said.
According to Mr Mbadi, Cord remains unruffled by the President’s long stay at the coast where he has been issuing title deeds.
“Coast province need serious land reforms that include addressing the past injustices by returning to the locals the large tracts of land that were taken away from them,” he said.
While dismissing the visits by leaders from Western and Nyanza regions to Mr Ruto’s Sugoi home, Mr Mbadi said: “These jubilee moles can visit the Deputy President as many times as they wish to get ‘brown envelopes’ but the good thing is that they leave the bulk of potential voters back home and who are our targets.”