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Vote a precursor to 2012 elections

Saturday August 7 2010

File | Nation President Kibaki with Prime Minister Odinga (left) and Vice-President Musyoka (right) at a past campaign rally. The PM on Tuesday withdrew his quest to be leader of government business in Parliament.

File | Nation President Kibaki with Prime Minister Odinga (left) and Vice-President Musyoka (right) at a past campaign rally. The PM on Tuesday withdrew his quest to be leader of government business in Parliament. 

By EMEKA MAYAKA

A considerable number of politicians – including Cabinet ministers – seemingly walked against the grain during campaigns ahead of the referendum and came out with a bloody nose.

In some constituencies, wananchi defied the counsel of their representatives to make their desired choices in last Wednesday’s vote.

Indeed, referendum results projected politicians whose wishes come into conflict with those of their constituents.

Arguments are emerging that the referendum vote could a be precursor of what might be awaiting MPs come the 2012 General Election.

By taking positions in support of or against the document, some politicians may have put their careers on the line.

In some cases, says Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara, the referendum was a protest vote against some politicians.

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Mr Imanyara says wananchi walked ahead of their MPs in the constitutional debate.

“This was a people-led revolution which was unstoppable,” he said. “I am afraid, the MPs in No camp who read the mood wrongly and swam against the current may have written their political epitaphs.”

“Even those who defied Mr (William) Ruto and the Kalenjin resolve to oppose the new constitution also have a mountain to climb.”

Mr Ruto, the Higher Education minister, whipped the Kalenjin to vote against the document. He was the de facto leader of the ‘No’ camp.

For some MPs like Charles Keter of Belgut, the referendum was a blessing in disguise.

“It was a gauge of whether your constituents are with you or not. It is a lesson and challenge for politicians from both the Green and Red teams.”

Prominent on the list of politicians who were defied by their constituents include Cabinet ministers Naomi Shaban (Special Programmes), Dr Sally Kosgei (Agriculture), Franklin Bett (Roads) and assistant ministers Joseph Nkaiserry, Asman Kamama, Gideon Ndambuki and Beatrice Kones.

Ironically, Mutula Kilonzo, the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, is a member of this an unenviable group. It was expected that being at the helm of the ministry which has been facilitating the writing of the new constitution and marketing it to the country, he would have convinced his Mbooni constituents to back the document. He didn’t.

The Mbooni residents voted overwhelmingly against the proposed new law.

No worry

Yet Mr Kilonzo is still passionate and unbowed.

“I am in a daze. Kenyans passed the new constitution with a super majority. I have no worry at all,” he told Sunday Nation.

“I respect the decision of Mbooni. I am happy we have delivered a new constitution for all Kenyans including my constituents,” he said.

He said the focus of the both the ‘Green’ and ‘Red’ campaign teams should be implementation of the new constitution.

“Like John Cardinal Njue, the people of Mbooni will have to catch up with the rest of Kenyans who backed the new law.”

The minister appeared to attribute the outcome in Mbooni to the influence of the church in Ukambani region.

“Mbooni is the place where Christian missionaries built some of the oldest churches we have today. The church is more entrenched that the constitution,” he said.

Dr Shaban, the Taveta MP, aggressively campaigned for rejection of the constitution, but her constituents threw their weight behind the document.

Cabinet ministers Dr Kosgei, Mr Bett and Mr Kosgey pushed the Green campaign among the Kalenjin who were fiercely opposed to the proposed constitution.

But there was an interesting turn of events in Joshua Kutuny’s Cherangany constituency where the ‘Yes’ vote carried the day.

Mr Kutuny, the noisy Ruto ally, traversed the constituency and the country rallying forces against the new constitution. The ‘Yes’ vote is attributed to voter demographics in the area. Cherangany is cosmopolitan and hosts huge chunks of members from the Luhya, Kikuyu and Abagusii communities.

An MP close to Mr Ruto, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of antagonising his colleagues, said Kalenjin politicians who joined the Green brigade may face a “backlash” from voters in the next election.

“Rejection of the constitution was a community decision,” he says. “The community is unlikely to forgive some of the leaders that supported the proposed constitution against the community position. They abandoned us when we went to battle,” he told Sunday Nation.

The MP cited the examples of former MPs Kipruto Kirwa and Stephen Tarus who lost their seats in the last General Election for failure to support the Orange Democratic Movement which the community supported in the 2007 polls.

Other Kalenjin MPs seen to have defied the community position include Prof Margaret KamarKamar and Lornah Laboso and garet Kamar.

Humbled MPs

Constituents also humbled MPs Kiema Kilonzo (Mutito), Silas Muriuki (North Imenti), Cyrus Jirongo (Lugari), Luka Kigen (Rongai), Chris Okemo Nambale and Gachoka’s Mutava Musyimi.

The MPs, especially Mr Kilonzo, Mr Jirongo and Mr Muriuki invested fortunes in the campaign against the constitution, but their constituents gave them a Red card.

Interestingly, Mr Muriuki’s North Imenti turned in 51,598 votes in favour of ‘Yes’, the highest in the larger Meru region.

Ukambani region was particularly tricky. A section of the church was opposed to the new constitution, and due to what is seen as its influence, the ‘No’ camp snatched Mwala, Machakos Town, Kilome, Kaiti, Kitui South and Kitui West.

The Greens delivered in 11 of the 17 constituencies in the region but the margin was so small that overall, the percentage was just 51 against the Reds’ 49.

For instance in joint government chief whip Johnstone Muthama’s Kangundo constituency, the Greens won by just 91 votes.