Azimio La Umoja One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga addressing residents of Narok at William Ole Ntimama Stadium during a political rally on May 22, 2022.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]
Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga rarely agree on much.
But the two leading contenders in this year’s presidential race are reading from the same script on how the electorate should vote in their respective strongholds – six-piece.
It is a call that has already attracted protestation from allies of the two leaders who do not belong to the deputy president’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) or the former Prime Minister’s Orange Democratic Movement.
The phenomenon is not unique to the two. In his Ukambani backyard, Kalonzo Musyoka has urged voters to repel the assault on his Wiper Democratic Movement ticket by parties such as Narc, Maendeleo Chap Chap and the Muungano Party.
Their justification for insisting on a six-piece vote is that they want the most loyal foot soldiers to push their agenda at the bicameral Parliament and at County Assemblies.
Ruto and Raila also want voters in their strongholds to kick out their harshest critics, most of whom are seeking to be elected on independent tickets.
“It is natural for people to want to reap the maximum elective posts,” says political commentator Herman Manyora.
In his Rift Valley turf, Ruto wants the electorate to reject Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Joshua Kutuny (Cherengany), Silas Tiren (Moiben) and Swarup Mishra (Kesses) as they “do not represent his agenda.”
“When we will be sending Raila home, will also need to kick out all the political leaders in this region not representing the ideals of the bottom-up economic model,” Ruto said recently in Eldoret.
Because the Deputy President enjoys massive sway in parts of Rift Valley, he has had the luxury of making such demands. Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto has been the loudest critic of the six-piece push, but he has kept his dissent cordial.
The same is playing out in Raila’s Nyanza backyard, in the four counties where Raila enjoys almost absolute support. Gladys Wanga, the ODM candidate, faces off against Evans Kidero, an independent in the Homa Bay governor race.
Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o is seeking re-election on an ODM party ticket as his predecessor Jack Ranguma attempts a comeback through the Movement for Democracy and Growth party led by Ugenya MP David Ochieng’.
In Migori, Senator Ochilo Ayacko of ODM faces stiff competition from Democratic Action Party-Kenya governor aspirant former Suna East MP John Pesa who supports Raila. It is the same in Raila’s home county of Siaya, where Senator James Orengo is up against former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo who is contesting for the seat using the United Democratic Movement party.
“Our people have always remained united in the past as we face our political adversaries, we are almost clinching the national leadership in our country and we cannot afford to appear divided at this moment that is why I want us to elect only ODM candidates,’’ said Raila.
But their insistence on a uniform vote may come at a cost. Ruto has already faced a more spirited opposition in Mt Kenya, where many rejected the call to fold their parties into UDA.
A number of parties, led by allies of the DP, have signed up to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance. Such include Moses Kuria’s Chama cha Kazi, William Kabogo’s Tujibebe Wakenya party, Mwangi Kiunjui’s The Service Party and the Farmers Party of Kenya, among other parties.
Faced with a similar situation in 2017, in the Kirinyaga Governor race pitting Anne Waiguru and Martha Karua, President Uhuru Kenyatta opted to play it neutral. Ruto, on the other hand, prefers that voters back UDA.
“One has to be careful when managing small parties because if Ruto insists on six-piece in Mt Kenya, where does he leave allies such as Kiunjuri?” Manyora poses.
“It is better to let them seek the small seats and let them help you in your quest for the big one. When you allow the small parties to thrive, you have more people mobilising for the presidential vote.”
Ruto’s allies from other parties have warned that the move could hurt the DP’s chances of clinching the presidency.
Kiunjuri yesterday said that it was healthy to allow competition between Kenya Kwanza-allied parties.
“A vibrant democracy is enriched by intra-competition within the Kenya Kwanza Alliance and the rest of the competitors particularly in this polls,” the former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary said.
But Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata believes that six-piece is the best strategy in Mt Kenya.
“We increase our bargaining power in a UDA government. It will afford us an opportunity to nominate more Members of County Assemblies as a party. It will help us leverage better with Ruto hence get more appointments in government including ambassadors and other State agencies,” Kang’ata told The Standard yesterday.
Raila faces a hurdle in Nyanza. Gumbo yesterday told The Standard that the six-piece narrative would not work in the region, given that even Raila himself is an Azimio la Umoja candidate and not an ODM aspirant.
“Those candidates pushing for only ODM candidates to be elected are doing so because they are not popular on the ground and would only want to hide behind the party to secure a victory that they do not deserve in the first place,” Gumbo said.
Gumbo said that the idea that only ODM legislators can defend Raila in Parliament was not true at all since what he needs is support from the Azimio coalition parties giving the example of late President Mwai Kibaki who ran the government with few MPs during his second term.