A mini-budget window and anticipated public service resignations — of those seeking elective seats in the August 9 General Election — have handed President Uhuru Kenyatta more cards to play in his succession game ahead of the polls.
The Treasury’s supplementary budget proposals tabled in parliament earlier this week seek to give the government an extra Ksh108.5 billion ($956.7 million) to spend in the few months to the end the fiscal year in June.
Notably, close to a quarter of the extra spending will be on fuel subsidy meant to cushion an increasingly agitated citizenry against rising crude prices and some to be allocated to the struggling electricity utility firm, Kenya Power.
The fuel subsidy saw the prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene remain unchanged for the third month running in the energy regulator’s January review despite increased crude import costs.
President Kenyatta’s administration has been keen to stabilise the fuel and electricity costs after steep rises last year sparked fears of social unrest. Ruling Jubilee Party rebels led by Deputy President William Ruto also took advantage of the public anger over the high and still rising cost of living to portray the president as prioritising his succession over the economy.
President Kenyatta has shown he has more than a passing interest in who succeeds him when his second and final constitutional term expires this August.
He has hinted at an imminent endorsement for his once bitter rival and former prime minister Raila Odinga’s presidential bid, and is believed to be actively involved in the planning campaigns behind the scenes.
Late last month, President Kenyatta assented to controversial amendments to the political parties law that makes it easier for Mr Odinga to rally a broad coalition behind his candidacy.
The coalition, known as Azimio La Umoja Movement, brings together the ruling Jubilee Party, Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) — the party with the majority opposition MPs in parliament — and a number of fringe parties.
In recent days, speculation is rife about the possibility of a pre-election deal between Azimio and the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) coalition led by former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka.
OKA had been widely tipped to become a credible third force with the ability to prompt a run-off between Mr Odinga and DP Ruto’s UDA, the two considered front runner contenders.
But OKA was significantly weakened late last month after Musalia Mudavadi, another former vice-president, and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula bolted to DP Ruto’s camp. Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetangula, like Mr Musyoka, backed Mr Odinga’s presidential bid in the 2017 election but fell out with him last year over the sharing of State funds among political parties in the defunct National Super Alliance coalition.
During a media briefing on Wednesday, Mr Musyoka appeared to lend credence to political talk hinting at a reunion with the former prime minister, saying OKA was ‘’open to talks with like-minded political parties.’’
His tone was remarkably different from the dismissive posturing in June 2021 when he ruled out the possibility of supporting Mr Odinga for a third time.
Just like last year when the former Nasa allies failed to reach a deal on who should be the presidential flag bearer, President Kenyatta is reported to be leading the latest negotiations between Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka.
The president seems to have a much stronger negotiating hand this time around.