Is Raila once again planning for defeat in coming election?

Monday October 9 2017

 elections

Nasa supporters carry on with anti-IEBC demos along Uhuru Highway, Nairobi, on October 9, 2017. The hard reality is that Nasa does not have the machinery to stop the elections. PHOTO | DENNIN ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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Way back in May, a lifetime in politics, I ventured on this very page that instead of aiming for victory, National Super Alliance (Nasa) presidential candidate Raila Odinga seemed to be planning for defeat.

A lot of water has since passed under the bridge.

The August 8 General Election saw Mr Odinga fail to dislodge President Uhuru Kenyatta.

STRATEGY
Then followed the historic Supreme Court annulment of the presidential election.

Common sense would have dictated that Mr Odinga would approach the fresh election on a roll.

Vindicated on his previous alerts about systematic plans to steal the elections, he could claim that he was cheated of victory, and use that to re-energise his support base in pursuit of a knockout punch come the repeat poll.

Mr Kenyatta’s dispirited support base, meanwhile, would be floundering around in shock, dismay and disbelief.

IEBC REFORMS
Well, things didn’t quite turn out that way.

It is Mr Kenyatta, who is campaigning as if his life depended on it, while Mr Odinga again seems to be preparing for defeat.

The veteran opposition leader, on almost certainly his last stab, is not even campaigning for president; but campaigning against everything and everybody.

With just over a fortnight to the October 26 presidential poll, it is becoming increasingly clear that Mr Odinga does not intend to participate unless his demands for thorough reform of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) are met.

CHILOBA
Of course, only a fool would agree to take part in an election presided over by the same persons who oversaw a previous poll found to have been rigged.

To that extent, Mr Odinga’s demand for the removal of the officials found to have committed electoral fraud is very reasonable.

IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba — who even in the run-up to the repeat poll is confirming his partisanship by supporting the outrageous Jubilee conspiracy to discredit the Supreme Court — should be nowhere near the elections.

It would also be reasonable to seal all the loopholes that allowed compromised election officials to manipulate the vote counting, tallying and transmission of results.

LAWS
The blame game, however, should be limited strictly to the manipulation uncovered by the Supreme Court petition, rather than pointing fingers wildly in every direction as Nasa is wont to do.

The point, however, is that the election date has been set, and cannot be put back indefinitely.

The window of opportunity is fast running out as Jubilee also plays hardball with its illegitimate efforts to change the election laws and neuter the Judiciary.

BOYCOTT

In the meantime, Nasa is not talking merely about boycotting the elections, as is its prerogative, but insisting that there will be no poll unless its demands are met.

The hard reality is that Nasa does not have the machinery to stop the elections.

The ongoing demonstrations in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and other towns show opposition anger over a tilted electoral system, but also show that Nasa cannot halt elections in substantial parts of the country.

RIGGING
We are in a situation now where Mr Odinga has wilfully failed to mobilise for the elections and organise the necessary campaign machinery.

Even if there was no rigging, he would enter the repeat poll facing serious risk of electoral humiliation.

The face-saving option might thus be to stay away on the grounds that the IEBC was bound to again hand Mr Kenyatta an undeserved victory.

That is the boycott, which would rob Mr Kenyatta of some legitimacy, but would not be enough to prevent him taking office for another term, however tainted.

CAMPAIGN

But what next? The opposition can sulk for the next five years, while President Kenyatta uses the period to consolidate his position by buying the morally weak from its ranks, and exploiting the parliamentary majority to grant himself dictatorial powers, just like Adolf Hitler did.

The opposition can go on a different tack, and launch vigorous campaigns for reform of the constitutional and electoral system so that Kenya is never again reduced to a hegemony of two powerful ethnic groups, which share and exchange power while all the others are reduced to mere spectators and cheerleaders.

The big question is whether Nasa has within its ranks the resolve, determination and unity of purpose to drive such a campaign.

Not from what we are seeing, so far.

[email protected] @MachariaGaitho