1 December 2012

Kenya: Uhuru, Ruto On the Ballot Boosts Raila's Chances for Top Job

The technical move by the plaintiffs in the integrity case that would have blocked URP and TNA leaders Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto from being on the ballot should at last serve as a relief to ODM.

This is because this is the duo that though seems formidable, gives ODM a narrative that's easiest to help it build a broad-based coalition that can bring together the largest part of the nation.

Without them in the ballot, they could have thrown their weight behind say Musalia Mudavadi, and if Uhuru could deliver the Kibaki 2007 Central and Upper Eastern voting blocks, then add Western votes, they would just need 40 percent in other provinces to romp home to victory against Raila's ODM.

My experience in leadership has showed me that it helps to give the people you lead an enemy against which they can unite.

That is what George Bush did against Al-Gore with the images of the 911 attacks, and certainly Raila can benefit from such a strategy.

It is also the reason why Drill Sergeants at military academies want to be the bad guy- so that the entire platoon can be united against them.

That is why ODM has to fast find an enemy issue around which a large swathe of the nation can rally around. I don't see any other unifying factor than the sanctions narrative.

That is why The Uhuru- Ruto duo greatly influences the 2013 election message. The fact that any article enumerating the consequences of sanctions from Caroline Mutoko to Rashid Wanjala has gone viral is testament to the potency of making sanctions a horse in 2013.

Uhuru and Ruto pairing up, effectively makes sanctions a horse whereby Raila can position himself as the horse that can insulate Kenyans against sanctions, and the Uhuru- Ruto ticket could be de-marketed as the hell-bound ticket to sanctions.

The good thing about this is that sanctions have no tribe. It is therefore my opinion that the Uhuru- Ruto ticket makes it less about the duo's tribes and more about the consequences and the moral angle of their presidencies.

That's a good thing for Kenya. It moves the national debate to the next level. It makes it a test-case of whether elections in Kenya can be really won based on stark choices between prosperity and stagnation.

ODM's challenge then becomes restricting the Uhuru- Ruto's support to North Rift and Central Kenya while winning the rest of Kenya into its 2013 column. That becomes easier with two polarising figures like Uhuru and Ruto on the same ticket.

The Uhuru-Ruto pair is very a polarising ticket which is akin to having Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin on the same ticket. It is an antagonistic ticket which brings their bases, Central Kenya and Rift Valley together in an immiscible solution, but doesn't make them gel as evidenced by the so called chants of Achicha, while also driving away a large swathe of the nation. Growing it beyond the duo's political bases becomes very tough.

Raila, if he can bring on board Kalonzo, it can be a synergistic ticket, meaning the sum total of the two is larger than the two of them in isolation.

This is because even though Kalonzo's support seems little, it's because of his 2007 ODM walkout and the eventual katikati affair, and if he can be Raila's running mate his otherwise nationwide support scattered among the numerous candidates could begin to view him differently.

Without scandals in his name, he deals the Raila reform message less damage. For the Uhuru-Ruto ticket, you have the Achicha rebellion in Rift Valley which takes away some votes from the duo.

It is easy to see why the sum total of the two might even be smaller than the sum of Uhuru and Ruto support bases in isolation, because again you have the G7 fall out over positions.

It is easier to see why TNA strategists were initially cagey about a Ruto running mate idea. And with Uhuru's surrogates controlling key powerful dockets like Finance, Justice, Defence, Internal Security, and Foreign Affairs and makes it easy to associate Uhuru with the failures in the economic and security fronts.

Add to this Ruto's deep KANU roots and you have an alliance of an effectively past/status quo alliance ticket that can be marketed as such.

That is why the duo's ticket is an alliance that grants Kenyans the R. Kelly's wish of "if I could turn back the hands of time" to the KANU era (read Ruto) and also removes the battery from Kenya's clock of progress (read status quo).

Uhuru's game seems to be crystallizing, now let's hang on and wait to see if Raila's would be a knock out counter-punch.


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