A show of political might looms in Malindi constituency as the campaigns for the National Assembly seat enter the final stretch.
Heavyweights from the ruling Jubilee Alliance and the Opposition are descending on the tourist resort town to drum up support for their preferred candidates.
Deputy President William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga are expected for a last round of campaigns for their candidates – Phillip Charo of Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) and William Mtengo of the Orange Democratic Party (ODM).
News of the arrival of the two fiery political leaders and bitter rivals has created excitement and enthusiasm in Malindi town whose economic fortunes have risen in the last six weeks of campaigns as politicians from Nairobi visited while others have camped in the area since the start of the campaigns for the March 7 by-election.
Although there are seven candidates fighting for the seat left vacant after Mr Dan Kazungu was appointed to the Cabinet, the competition has shaped up into a two-horse race between Mr Charo and Mr Mtengo.
It is a close race between the two and this has seen politicians from both sides of the political divide camp in Malindi where they have intensified door-to-door campaigns even as they target critical audiences such as religious leaders – Muslims and Christians – as well as local communities.
The Jubilee team is led by ODM Kilifi rebel MP Gideon Munga’ro, Mustapha Iddi, Khatib Mwashetani (Ford Kenya), Gonzi Rai of Kinango (TNA) as well as Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko among others who have camped in the area.
Meanwhile ODM Deputy leader and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi have camped in the constituency to lead Mr Mtengo’s campaigns.
Mr Odinga, the Cord leader, told the Sunday Nation on Thursday that he would arrive in Malindi on Monday for an intensive and comprehensive campaign for Mr Mtengo.
His visit comes a week after the departure of the Deputy President, who had a two-day campaign tour where apart from holding marathon rallies, held meetings with religious leaders, representatives of pastoralist groups and local leaders.
Mr Ruto is expected to return on Tuesday for a last-minute vote seeking campaign.
Mr Odinga told the Sunday Nation that he would land at the Malindi International Airport at 2pm with a Cord entourage to woo voters to vote for the party’s candidate.
“We will then traverse the constituency for three days to ensure the party retains the seat,’’ said the former Prime Minister.
Mr Odinga and Cord principals Moses Wetang’ula and Kalonzo Musyoka had also visited the area two weeks ago during the clearance of Mr Mtengo by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and later held a rally at Ngala grounds.
The IEBC cleared nine candidates but three have since dropped out.
Others in the race are: Mr Attass Shariff (LPK), Mr Reuben Katana (Kadu Asili), Mr David Mangi (Shirikisho), and Mr Peter Ponda (CCU).
On Saturday, the Jubilee team comprising Mr Sonko, Mr Munga’ro, Mr Rai, Mr Mwashetani, Mr Iddi and Mr Julius Ndegwa (Lamu West) addressed rallies at Jilore and Lango Baya to drum up support for Mr Charo.
The ODM team held meetings with women and key groups in the rural areas of the constituency.
Both Jubilee and ODM teams have divided themselves into groups to enable them effectively carry out their messages and are now focusing on the vote-rich wards within Malindi town even as they target specific influential groups in the constituency.