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Kalonzo could change presidential election outcome

Saturday May 28 2022
kalonzo

Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka has submitted documents to run as a presidential candidate in the August elections. PHOTO | FILE

By OTIENO OTIENO

As Kenya’s presidential hopefuls race to beat the June 6 deadline for obtaining clearance by the electoral commission to run in the August 9 election, former vice president Kalonzo Musyoka continues to attract attention.

Mr Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement party submitted his name and endorsement signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), backing his earlier announcement that he will be running for the top seat a second time.

Read: Two-horse race takes shape in Kenya as Kalonzo weighs options

His late entry in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta and break ranks with the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya coalition was a reaction to his having been overlooked for the position of running mate to Raila Odinga.

Mr Odinga, keen to appeal to voters in the populous Mt Kenya region and garner the national women vote, opted for former Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua as his running mate.

The findings of recent opinion polls give Mr Musyoka a slim chance, with not more than four percent of respondents saying they would vote for him.

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But with the surveys also showing a dead heat in the contest between Deputy President William Ruto and Mr Odinga, the Wiper party leader could still have a say in who becomes Kenya’s fifth President.

A candidate must garner 50 percent plus one vote to be declared the winner, meaning that there is a possibility of Mr Musyoka forcing a run-off if he contests.

Also read: Kenya polls: Raila Odinga, William Ruto pick Mt Kenya running mates

His last run in 2007 is widely believed to have divided the opposition vote and tipped the scales in favour of then President Mwai Kibaki, who ended up beating Mr Odinga by just about 200,000 votes in the violently disputed election of that year.

As was the case 15 years ago, Mr Musyoka would be banking on his Kamba ethnic voting bloc that is thought to account for two million out of the country’s total 23 million registered voters currently.

Fallout

His walkout from the Azimio coalition this month marked the second major falling-out with Mr Odinga in the past nine months, after the dissolution of the National Super Alliance (Nasa) — the coalition they built to contest the 2017 election as presidential candidate and running mate — in August 2021.

But the man widely caricatured in the national media for his famed flip-flopping on political issues has continued to send mixed signals, fuelling speculation about another possible reunion with the Azimio coalition.

While announcing his presidential bid on May 16, Mr Musyoka appeared to suggest that he remained open to negotiations for a deal that would have him support another candidate.

Since then, he has neither issued any public statement nor come out to campaign. Indications are that he will go back to Azimio. Mr Musyoka’s travel outside the country, reportedly to the UK early this week, came amid reports about ongoing talks over a pre-election power-sharing deal that would give his party 20 percent of senior appointments in an Odinga administration, on top of the chief minister position dangled to the former vice-president earlier.

In recent days, Mr Musyoka has also come under pressure from his political base, with a group of Wiper aspirants for the down-ballot seats and a professionals’ lobby from the party publicly asking him to rejoin the Azimio coalition.

Analysts say such a reunion would enhance Mr Odinga’s chances of pulling off a round-one victory against Mr Ruto.

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