Renewed rivalry as ODM, PNU pick candidates
Published on May 7, 2008, 12:00 am
By Standard Team
Hostilities are set to be renewed between the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as each party picks its candidates and rolls out campaigns for the June 11 parliamentary and civic by-elections.
The Standard reliably learnt last night that negotiations are ongoing between ODM-Kenya, Kanu and PNU together with all its affiliates aimed at fielding one candidate in every electoral area under one party — PNU.
Five parliamentary and 55 civic seats are up for grabs in another contest that is beginning to display all the signs of a cliffhanger.
Its timing — coming hardly before the dust settles on a post-election crisis that drove the country to the brink — easily makes it another life and death affair for the two main coalition partners eager to assert their political supremacy. ODM will be seeking to maintain its dominance of the House, while PNU will be out to wrench leverage from its rival. The numbers remain crucial to both sides.
In Nairobi, where ODM will be seeking to recapture Embakasi, a seat it lost through the death of its youthful MP-elect, the late Mugabe Were, the Mungiki factor is expected to play a role.
But this time the outlawed sect, earlier perceived as sympathetic to PNU, appears to have switched allegiance. Its political leadership has openly stated it will support the ODM.
David Mwenje, who previously held the Embakasi seat before it was wrenched away from him by Were has also since passed away.
Apart from Embakasi, the parties will also fight it out in Emuhaya, Kilgoris, Wajir North and Ainamoi.
The by-elections will be historical in the sense that both PNU and ODM are in Government after being forced into an uneasy cohabitation by a peace deal that hauled the country out of a crippling post-election bloodletting and mayhem triggered by a disputed presidential vote.
Whether President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who signed the historical peace accord that returned sanity to the nation, will go at each other hammer and tongs as was witnessed in last year’s elections also remains to be seen.
“We will not take each other lightly. Even if we are partners, we won’t spare our comrades in Government. Just like a man and his wife find themselves sharing ugali from one plate, but they all end up swallowing for each self but still end up on the same bed after that. That is what will happen when by-elections come,” Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, the ODM secretary-general and Medical Services minister has been quoted saying.
Both the ODM Pentagon campaign centre and the PNU headquarters on Lenana Road, Nairobi, are expected to erupt back to life all over again.
With both sides in Government, civil societies will be watching to see who abuses State resources during the campaigns. It has been common for Cabinet ministers to hit the campaign trail with their official vehicles, raising an outcry from taxpayers and civil rights activists.
The December 27 General Election cost the taxpayer Sh5 billion. Supplementary financial estimates released last week show some Sh400 million has been pumped into the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), part of which could go towards funding the mini-polls.
Still standing discredited and currently under investigation over the manner in which it handled the 2007 General Election, the ECK will handle the polls at time when public confidence on its performance is at the lowest ebb.
ODM is already understood to be lining up big names for Embakasi, a constituency with 249,811 registered voters.
Top on the queue is Ms Esther Passaris, whose ambition to become Nairobi Mayor was nipped in the bud after the then Local Government minister, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, rescinded her nomination to City Hall.
“I’ve been approached by a number of residents. But I’m still weighing my options,” Passaris, a Nairobi businesswoman, told The Standard by telephone. ” I still have the bigger dream of representing the entire city as a Mayor and not just Embakasi Constituency as an MP. I can do more from the City Hall.”
Others seeking the seat on an ODM ticket include former Juja MP Mr William Kabogo, Mr Irshad Mohammed Sumra, former Bumula MP Mr Lawrence Sifuna and Mr Stephen Mwanga, who contested the Ugenya Parliamentary seat but lost to Lands minister Mr James Orengo.
Orange House again erupted to life yesterday as the prospective candidates started picking nomination papers. They included Passaris, Kabogo, Mwanga, Sifuna, Prof Tony Wambua, Mr Lameck Kiage, Mr James Kabitu and Nairobi lawyer Mr Robert Asembo.
It is also understood that a brother to the late Mugabe Were, Mr Julius Were, is also interested in the seat on an ODM ticket.
Former councillors Mr Ferdinand Waititu and Mr John Ndirangu both who contested the last General Election are in the race too.
Waititu already has his PNU posters and large banners displayed in the constituency ahead of the by-election.
On the PNU, ODM-Kenya single-candidate consultations, the PNU spokesman and nominated MP Mr George Nyamweya was cautious.
“We’re in consultations but affiliate parties are yet to hold meetings of their respective party organs to ratify any decision,” he said.
He said members of the coalition were seeking ways of approaching the by-elections as a united entity, but no decision had been reached yet.
Party deputy executive director Major (Rtd) Francis Matu said the general consensus is that the PNU coalition should field a single candidate.
“The general consensus is that we would like to field one candidate. The party’s’ leadership is going to sit down to agree on the best way forward,’’ said Matu.
Elsewhere, the outlawed Mungiki promised to marshal support for ODM to show solidarity with Raila and his party.
The Lang’ata MP appeared to have opened a new political chapter with the sect on the day he was sworn in as Prime Minister when he stated: “It’s time the Government spoke to Mungiki and listened to their grievances.”
He even compared the leadership of the sect with that of the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony, saying it started in a similar fashion and now for more than a decade had snowballed into a guerrilla outfit difficult to control.
Last week, Raila seemed to cement this new relationship when he sent Maina Njenga, the jailed Mungiki leader two books of immense political importance —The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green and Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom.
In Wajir North, the Kanu and ODM candidates tied in the last elections, occasioning the by-election.
Emuhaya voters will go to the polls to elect a new MP after Mr Kenneth Marende was elected Speaker of the National Assembly, thus relinquishing the seat as required by law.
The seat has so far attracted scores of personalities including Mr Joshua Otupa, Ms Helen Alitsi, former MP Mr Sheldon Muchilwa and Prof Norah Olembo.
In Kilgoris, fresh elections will be carried out after ECK nullified the results, while in Ainamoi constituents will vote to replace the late David Kimutai Too (ODM), who was shot dead in Eldoret by a policemen in unclear circumstances.
Two former Cabinet ministers who are both now allied to PNU — Mr Gideon Konchela and Mr Julius Sunkuli — could battle it out against each other in Kilgoris.
In Ainamoi, elders from the constituency have already endorsed the candidature of the slain MP’s younger brother, Mr Benjamin Langat. His candidature was given a major boost during the burial when speakers, including top ODM officials, spoke in his support.
In Wajir North constituency, the battle will be between the two candidates — Mr Mohamed Hussein Gabow of ODM and Dr Abdilahi Ali Ibrahim of Kanu — who tied during the December 2007 polls.
Presently ODM has 106 MPs, while PNU has 98. However, a PNU affiliate DP has indicated it will be going it alone. The party’s organising secretary Mr Jacob Haji said DP was not party to PNU’s agreement to sponsor joint candidates for the vacant seats.
Narc Kenya’s Danson Mungatana is also on record stating his party’s position on the by-elections. The Medical Services Assistant minister said Narc Kenya will being going it alone.
-Additional reporting by Joseph Murimi and Beauttah Omanga