By Daily Nation
The possibility that Kenya will have a youthful President at the next election appears more uncertain with the line-up that has filed papers at the office of the Registrar of Political Parties.
Barring an Obama-type upset, where a leader will emerge from obscurity to capture the imagination of a majority of voters in a break from tradition, the shape of things to come will be directed by seven personalities, who are party leaders.
Most of the top leaders who have been unveiled by their political parties as potential presidential candidates in the next General Election have declared that the country was ready for a young president.
Inspired by the election of 47-year-old Barack Obama as the US President last month, the politicians, who are now chairpersons or deputy leaders of their parties, argue that it is time Kenyans embraced a generational change and voted into office a young person.
The leaders cite the high number of MPs below the age of 40 who won their seats in the last General Election as a sign of changing times. They suggested that voters could settle for a leader who is young, arguing that Mr Daniel arap Moi was 54 years when he took over power. But just how young is young?
Those who have so far staked a claim to the presidency are Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, and Deputy Prime ministers Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi. Others are Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, George Saitoti and William Ruto.
They are likely to run for high office themselves or marshall support for other candidates as the race shapes up and dependent on the character the new constitution assumes.
Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi introduced a motion seeking to set the presidential age limit at 65 years.
Backers of the motion, mainly youthful MPs supporting the formation of the grand opposition in Parliament, argue that old politicians are responsible for the ills facing the country.
Mr Odinga has repeatedly said that he favours a parliamentary system of government with a PM who holds executive powers.
He also favours devolution of power to the regions. On the other hand, some MPs allied to Mr Musyoka appear to favour a system where executive power remains with the President who is voted through a universal suffrage system.
Mr Odinga, who will be 67 years in 2012, last week retained his seat as the ODM party leader and is expected to vie for the presidency for the third time.
In the last elections, he put up a spirited campaign for State House on an ODM ticket, but saw his hopes fade with the disputed presidential election result. The Electoral Commission of Kenya declared Mr Kibaki the winner, sparking a wave of violence that was only brought to an end by the intervention of the international community through former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.
Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi, Ms Karua and Mr Ruto said the youth were the majority voters and were not tied down by factors of tribalism, class and regions.
While describing young presidents as inspirational, Mr Musyoka argued that the ideas and policies of an individual candidate were the best determinants of a leader.
“There are young presidents who are very inspirational worldwide just as there are old presidents who are very successful. What Kenyans require is a servant leader who will demystify State House by pursuing policies that connect directly with the ordinary person,” he told the Sunday Nation on the phone.
The VP, who will be 59 in 2012, said he was proud of the historic achievements of Mr Obama, who is set to be sworn into office as the first black US President on January 20, 2009.
The ODM Kenya leader is expected to take a second stab at the highest political office in the land in the next polls. In the last elections, he was third after Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga.