President Uhuru Kenyatta’s camp in Azimio la Umoja, alongside other affiliate parties, yesterday warned that ODM leader Raila Odinga’s ‘six-piece suit’ call for voting in his Nyanza backyard could upset voter turnout and affect his presidential run.
Mr Odinga, the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition Party leader, had on Monday urged the electorate in Luo Nyanza to only pick ODM candidates, causing a storm in the broader outfit, where other parties see his call as a fight against them.
They instead want Mr Odinga to let all candidates fight it out in the polls, dismissing the six-piece suit call — where one party’s candidates sweep all six elective seats — as an attempt to re-introduce zoning through the backdoor after it was rejected by the affiliates.
In his speech on Monday, Mr Odinga said those who are seeking alternative parties, or going independent are “enemies of the people” out to divide the region ahead of the elections on August 9.
But yesterday, affiliate parties demanded that Mr Odinga retract his statement, which they said could hurt the coalition’s bigger picture.
Mr Odinga will be contesting the presidency on the Azimio ticket and not ODM, hence calls for six-piece voting do not suffice, the parties argued.
Azimio National Coalition Executive Council (NCEC) deputy chairman David Murathe, who is also the Jubilee Party vice-chairman, said allowing all other Azimio parties, including independent candidates backing Mr Odinga to compete, would be healthy for a high voter turnout.
“The more candidates the merrier. If you run candidates, for example, of David Ochieng’s party or even UDM, which Gumbo (Nicholas) is contesting on for Siaya governor seat, provided at the top they vote for Jakom (Mr Odinga), it is good for voter turnout. This is because they will all mobilise their supporters to go and vote and so it is important to let the competition be very heavy and they mobilise their supporters to ensure the presidential vote remains intact,” Mr Murathe told the Nation.
“That’s what we did in 2017, in North Eastern for example, where we said Jubilee lined up four or five parties and all voted President (Uhuru) Kenyatta at the top,” he said.
“If you say it’s a monolith – ODM — people will not turn out to vote,” Mr Murathe said.
He went on: “Even if Orengo (James) loses in Siaya we can make him a minister after that. Even Lusaka (Kenneth) and Speaker JB Muturi, failed to clinch their seats and got those plum positions.”
Mr Gumbo is vying for the Siaya gubernatorial seat on a United Democratic Movement (UDM) ticket against Mr Orengo of ODM.
In Homa Bay, former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, who is running as an independent candidate, will face off with Gladys Wanga of ODM for the governor’s seat, while in Migori, former MP John Pesa of DAP-K will face Senator Ochilo Ayacko of ODM at the ballot.
In Kisii, Senator Sam Ongeri of DAP-K will also face off with Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati of ODM while in Nyamira, Governor Amos Nyaribo of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will face ODM National Treasurer Timothy Bosire.
In Mombasa, Wiper candidate Ali Mbogo, the MP for Kisauni, is also headed for a faceoff with ODM’s Abdulswamad Nassir for the governor’s seat.
Yesterday, Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat insisted that Mr Odinga’s call for a six-piece voting pattern was not “necessary”.
“We cannot achieve maximum presidential votes through the route he is going. It is better that he allows other parties to contest because he is still the beneficiary,” Mr Salat said.
He pointed out that in Nyanza, for example, it is a foregone conclusion that nearly all aspirants back Mr Odinga’s presidential bid.
“The numbers he (Mr Odinga) needs in Parliament can come from other parties. They will still work with him. As Kanu, we have one presidential candidate and that’s him, so I don’t see us deviating from pursing our interests through him inside and outside Parliament,” he said.
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna, however, argues that even though Mr Odinga is the Azimio coalition party leader, he still remains the leader of ODM, with equal rights to drum up support for his candidates in the Orange outfit.
“We agreed that every party in the coalition should field candidates, so you don’t expect that the party leader of ODM will not support ODM candidates. Until the day that Raila Odinga is no longer the party leader of ODM, you cannot really expect him not to campaign for ODM candidates,” said Mr Sifuna.
But DAP-K Deputy Party Leader Ayub Savula insisted that Mr Odinga’s calls for six-piece voting for ODM candidates was in “bad faith”.
“He should focus on the presidency because he is running on an Azimio ticket and not ODM ticket. He will create unfavourable conditions for the other contestants and even risk losing their support as they will stop campaigning for him and concentrate on their own campaigns,” said Mr Savula.
He added that this being possibly Mr Odinga’s last attempt at the top seat, “he should get focused on the main seat and leave aspirants within Azimio to compete for other seats so that they consolidate votes for him at the apex”.
But Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni had a different view, saying zoning in some areas was still an option.
“There are areas we will allow for zoning because zoning will give us maximum votes. In other areas we will allow mixed matching, while others a uniform piece. That latitude is what gives us an edge over our competitors,” Mr Kioni told the Nation yesterday.
“When you go looking for votes for individual seats, people will employ all tactics that will make them elected, but when we go for the presidential vote it’s going to be different.”
“The reality in the country is that there will be different presidential messages or narratives for different regions because the regions are diverse and in need of different attention,” Mr Kioni said.
The National Liberal Party (NLP) leader and former ambassador, Mr Stephen Tarus, argues that a “six-piece” vote is not tenable in the Azimio framework.
“The parties in Azimio had agreed that no party will be limited by the coalition so they are free to field their candidates for the electorate to make their choices in a democratic manner,” Mr Tarus told the Nation.
UDM Secretary-General David Ohito said Mr Odinga was simply exercising his campaign agenda by standing with his candidates.
“We also have our strongholds where we’ve never asked ODM to step aside or forget about their candidatures. So it’s a tit for tat. In Mandera, ODM has candidates and we are not talking about them, even in Wajir and Marsabit, in fact we encourage them to come out and campaign so that Raila gets maximum votes. When there is healthy competition, it is to the advantage of Raila,” Mr Ohito said.
He gave the example of Siaya, where he said Mr Odinga stood to get as high as 99 per cent, which he said could be affected if supporters of Mr Gumbo, the UDM candidate, are blasted with the six-piece suit call.
On Monday, Mr Orengo’s campaign team was heckled in Siaya when one of the speakers eyeing the deputy governor position linked UDM to Deputy President William Ruto.
Mr Ohito termed such talk as “desperate”.
Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) party leader – Ugenya MP David Ochieng’ termed as “foolish” those linking Azimio affiliates to Dr Ruto, saying such propaganda will only serve to disadvantage Mr Odinga.
Courtesy Nation Africa