The Third Horse In Presidency Race
The press releases from the National Alliance party celebrating its victory in Monday’s by-elections have been telling. They identify ODM, by name, as the arch foe in the coming General Election. I found it odd for the party’s branding and campaign messaging to single out one opponent in gloating about its success.
That can mean two things: either the party has bought into Raila Odinga’s kitendawili propaganda that the next election will be a two–horse race between his Orange Democratic Movement and Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA, which he has repeatedly stated without directly naming. Or TNA wants to amplify that message for the ears of the other contestants angling for the alliance ticket to take on Raila that it is a foregone conclusion who should carry that mantle.
The messages are a continuation of Uhuru’s aggressive push to neutralize the parties lining up to support his presidential bid in central Kenya. Many politicians are being coerced and frowning upon the suggestion that they should abandon their briefcase parties to congregate in TNA and create a formidable regional party, much like ODM Luo Nyanza, so as to sweep all the seats.
That makes sense — it would void the need for many small deals between the parties and enable TNA to court a bigger coalition partner. But it is unlikely that some will succumb to Big Brother’s patronage as those parties are the fall back option for politicians wary of being edged out of the real electoral contest through manipulation or cut throat nomination in TNA. The meetings convened so far by Uhuru’s strategists have failed to yield the desired results and efforts at unity are intensifying.
That survival instinct will scuttle the prospect of the two-horse race predicted by Raila and pave way for a third and fourth horse, already showing strongly in the political exploits of William Ruto and Kalonzo Musyoka. Strong-willed and uncompromising, Ms Karua has determined to go all the way to the ballot box and damn the consequences. Everything about her solitary campaign points to someone who will not budge regardless of the reality on the ground.
But her Narc-Kenya party still ranks dismally in most surveys despite two years of spirited campaigning although she contemptuously dismisses the validity of any survey as funded by her opponents. Time will tell. William Ruto, on the other hand, is determined to prove a point. Headstrong and energetic, he may be the most attractive albeit expensive partner to forge a coalition with. And for good reason: he has invested heavily in curving out the Kalenjin constituency he controls over the last two years.
He is itching to test his strength at the ballot box and trade off his support in the run off if he does not make it. If he defies all predictions and pressure to still contest, he will make it to the top four but his exact ranking will depend on whose support he will bag. Being the fox he is, it will not be surprising if he opts to strike a deal with Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka or Raila Odinga for a winning combination.
That would be a blessing to Kalonzo, whose only chance of being that other horse depends entirely on the support of Ruto or Uhuru or both. While that would change the configuration, it would not alter the fact that the race is between Raila and the rest. Which of the two horses – Raila and Uhuru — wins depends on who will win the backing of Kalonzo or Ruto.
Of course there is the possibility that the two could forge a united front altogether and become the all-important third horse. That could be the game changer that will bring into equation the influence of other wild cards like Musalia Mudavadi, Eugene Wamalwa or Martha Karua. Until that happens, and depending on who will be prevailed upon by sense or circumstance to back down or support the other, the 2013 election could go either way between Raila and Uhuru or Kalonzo in that order.