Raila Odinga was yesterday facing internal rebellion from several political bigwigs over his party’s plan to compel “weak candidates” to pull out of the August 9 General-Election before Thursday.
Murmurs of disquiet started after the Azimio-One Kenya Coalition party announced that candidates perceived to be weak will be asked to step down in favour of their stronger counterparts within the coalition that brings together over 20 parties.
The move is expected to reduce intra-party competition at the ballot and increase Azimio’s chances of trouncing other opponents for various seats, particularly for National Assembly, Senate and governorship. Azimio has been working with pollsters to determine the popularity of its candidates.
Opinion polls will be used to determine which candidate will be asked to step down and which ones will be allowed to go all the way to the ballot during the August 9 election that is now 42 days ago.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has given a deadline of June 30 – which is Thursday this week – as the last day to withdraw candidates already cleared for various positions. Any requests after Thursday will not be entertained. IEBC plans to commence printing of ballot papers from July 1.
Once a final list is ready, IEBC will embark on printing of ballot papers.
Yesterday, several bigwigs, especially those running for the governor’s seat, warned Azimio against any attempts to force them out of the electoral race, saying such a move would be counter-productive in the quest to ensure high turnout of voters on Election Day. Azimio leaders’ eyes are fixed on governor races in Kajiado, Kisii, Mombasa, Machakos, Isiolo, Marsabit, Mandera and West Pokot where Azimio has attracted strong candidates vying on different outfits within the coalition.
With over 20 parties under its umbrella, the smaller partners have found themselves in tough competition for seats, risking the possibility of splitting votes to the advantage of opponents under Kenya Kwanza Alliance led by Deputy President William Ruto, who is seeking the presidency under a United Democratic Alliance ticket.
In Kajiado, Azimio leaders are scratching their heads over what to do given that ODM and Jubilee have fielded incumbent Governor Joseph ole Lenku and former governor David Nkedianye respectively.
Lenku has been demanding for outright endorsement by Azimio leaders although Nkedianye has vowed to remain in the race to the end. Azimio is facing a similar situation in Kisii where three partner parties have sponsored candidates for governor. ODM has Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, DAP-K has Senator Sam Ongeri and Jubilee has former Senator Chris Obure.
Ongeri said no one should decide for the community.
“As a community, we are rallying behind Raila and Karua but for the county seat, leave us to battle for it,” the senator said. Obure supported Ongeri’s sentiments, saying Kisii voters will vote for those they want to lead them in the county.
Yesterday, DAP-K chairman Wafula Wamunyinyi acknowledged ongoing talks within the alliance to field a single candidate in the race to improve Azimio’s chances by ensuring their candidates do not cannibalise each other and give their opponents victory.
“All the parties and the candidates will be involved and we have to look at all possibilities and recommendations. It is not about forcing anyone to withdraw but talking to them,” he told People Daily.
Wamunyinyi said the process will be consultative. “We will only talk about this in areas where fielding many candidates might give an advantage to UDA or their affiliates. In other areas where it is only Azimio candidates then they will be left to fight it out among themselves so long as they campaign for our presidential candidate,” he said.
Last week, Azimio deputy presidential candidate Martha Karua said the coalition had commissioned the final round of opinion polls to determine who among the candidates was most popular, signaling the end of the road for those with low popularity ratings.
However, the move caused tension during Azimio campaigns in Northern Kenya where supporters of rival governor candidates disrupted at least two rallies in the last one week, compelling Karua to urge voters to choose their governors but elect Raila.
Various parties under Azimio have fielded candidates for various seats and are engaging each other in battles that turned violent during Raila’s tour.
In Machakos, governor hopefuls Nzioka Waita of Chama Cha Uzalendo and Wiper’s Wavinya Ndeti are locked in a tough contest too, with no clear indication as to who will cede ground to the other.
Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka recently asked Waita to step down during an Azimio rally in Machakos town, attracting spirited opposition from Waita who asked him to keep off the county’s politics. Waita has said the people will decide who will govern them in August. “We are serious about our bid,” he said on Friday.
In Mombasa, Wiper governor candidate Mike Sonko has ruffled feathers, as ODM leaders demand his withdrawal in favour of the party’s hopeful, Abdulswamad Nassir. It is still not clear if Sonko will be cleared to vie as his case is still pending.
IEBC Secretary Marjan Hussein Marjan told People Daily that printing of ballot papers will commence at once now that the commission has concluded the resolution of disputes facing various candidates.
“Commission expects all cases to be concluded by the end of June to pave the way for ballot proofing and subsequent printing,” he said.
“It is expected that the last shipment will be in the country a week before the election,” he added.
In an exclusive interview with the IEBC official on the sidelines of a stakeholders’ meeting with the media in Diani, Kwale county, Marjan said a candidate who wishes to withdraw his or her candidacy will be required to fill a statutory form 24A.
In a petition ruling in 2017, the Supreme Court held that a candidate can withdraw at any time, and Marjan said that should a candidate withdraw from the contest before the printing of the ballot papers, his or her name will not be on the ballot.
“The Supreme Court held that under Article 38 of the Constitution, a candidate has the liberty to withdraw from a contest as he pleases as long as ballot papers have not been printed. Thus, candidates withdrawing after ballot papers have been printed will have their details appear in the ballot paper during the Election Day,” he added.