7 January 2013

Kenya: Raila, Uhuru in Nomination Headache

Cord presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his Jubilee counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta are in for a rough time as they prepare for nominations in their respective coalitions.

Political parties kick off nominations this week ahead of the January 18 deadline and most have strategically scheduled the exercise for January 17, to avert fallout.

Raila's coalition yesterday suffered a setback when Wiper aspirants and leaders of minor parties, including Kalembe Ndile's Tip Tip and Wavinya Ndeti's Chama cha Uzalendo, rejected the proposed joint nomination announced the previous day.

Leaders of the small parties under Cord led by Ndeti and Ndile accused the coalition of dictating matters to them. "This coalition should not be a dictatorship," said Ndeti.

"We reject the joint nomination slated for the 17th of this month. We urge Cord leadership to allow individual parties to conduct separate nominations," Kibwezi MP Philip Kaloki said yesterday.

But Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba said rivals will gain if Cord parties are allowed to conduct their own nominations. "Why should we scatter our votes? Why are they scared? If you are strong on the ground and invested well in the campaigns you will win," he said.

Uhuru is facing similar problems in Nairobi, Central and Rift Valley where some affiliate party members have refused to participate in joint nominations.

In Central, GNU aspirants have flatly rejected suggestions that they conduct joint nominations with TNA, while in Nairobi URP members have accused their TNA counterparts of harassing and intimidating them.

Last week Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waititu stormed the TNA headquarters and disrupted operations for nearly two hours demanding a direct nomination.

Such events forced Uhuru to issue a statement in which he warned TNA aspirants not to expect direct tickets or his biased support ahead of the party's nominations.

Uhuru said all aspirants should seek the support of the voters in their region and work to clinch the TNA tickets for the March 4 general election.

"I am seeking my votes as I campaign. So let every aspirant do the same. Whoever the people elect I will work with him," Uhuru said. In Rift Valley, Uhuru's running mate William Ruto is also facing a real test after some URP members refused to participate in the joint nominations.

New political aspirants in the region have expressed fear that the party nominations may not be free and fair especially for MPs. There is also confusion over whether the party should go for joint nominations with TNA or take its own route.

There is growing fear that the party may favour current MPs, although chairman Francis ole Kaparo has ruled out any favouritism. "We have put in place measures to ensure the nominations for all seats will be free and fair and aspirants should feel confident because they will be treated as equal. Whoever wins will get the ticket," said Kaparo.

There are claims that some aspirants close to Ruto may try to interfere with the polls. However, the party has rubbished the claims. Cord's real challenge is in the Nairobi county governor race. Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru, former Mumias Sugar managing director Evans Kidero and former Town Clerk Philip Kisia are among those battling for the seat.

In the Siaya county governor race, ODM aspirants are apprehensive that they may be locked out in a nomination contest against Oburu Odinga, Raila's older brother.

Oburu was initially interested in the Senator position, but switched to Governor to avoid clashing with Lands minister James Orengo. Ruth Odinga, the PM's sister, has ambitions for Kisumu governor.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka's Wiper is facing a test in Machakos county. Former Mwala MP Mutua Katuku and former government spokesman Alfred Mutua are frontrunners for the governor nominations.

Interestingly, the two enjoy separate influential interests within the party. Mutua is claimed to be Kalonzo's favourite while Katuku is fronted by Kangundo MP Johnston Muthama, who is said to be Wiper's financier.

In 2007, ODM faced a similar situation. Promises of appointments to lucrative positions including ambassador, chairman of parastatal and nominated MP helped ODM avert the crisis. The Elections Act 2011 bars nomination losers from being appointed to public office for five years after an election.

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