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September 19, 2018

Who will win this time?

Who will win it?
Who will win it?

Last week saw the two main political coalitions — the Jubilee Party on one hand, and what we are now learning to call the National Super Alliance on the other — get their houses in order in readiness for the general election in August.

Going forward, the question which will be posed over and over again is, “Who do you think will win?”

This is especially because each side seems to spend every waking moment trying to convince us that their rivals have already lost, and that the election is as good as over.

I would set out two fairly basic generalisations, which I think will determine who becomes President, and also who gets a clear Majority at the National Assembly and the Senate.

My first generalisation is that it is really very difficult to beat an incumbent Kenyan President seeking reelection. So much so that any rival to a serving President should take the same view, as would an elite marathon runner who sees that his main competitor is a kilometer or so ahead: You know that unless you make a superhuman effort and accelerate — or alternatively — unless he trips and falls badly enough to injure himself, you simply cannot catch him.

As of this point, we see no superhuman effort by the opposition coalition, and President Uhuru Kenyatta has yet to trip up really badly. So we could say Uhuru is well on his way to victory, unless he suddenly messes up.

My second point though, is that the prospects for the opposition unity — the key prerequisite for defeating Uhuru at the polls — are not as bleak as some critics think. It’s only in the 1990s that the opposition parties could be relied on to splinter into ineffectual smaller parties and pave the way for the President’s reelection.

Since then, opposition leaders have learned to remain united, and to give the incumbent just one serious rival to run against him. And in any event that any key leader bolted from the main opposition grouping, they ended up a distant third to the two main protagonists.

Then I must also point out that the Jubilee government has been generous enough to give the opposition a formula for catering for would-be Presidents, who have had to postpone their ambitions. First in that it appointed to the Cabinet, politicians who had initially aspired to elective seats. And second in that it created certain Cabinet positions, which are clearly and distinctly superior to the others. So much so that any top-tier politician who does not get to be nominated as the opposition candidate for President or Deputy President — or who runs for governor or senator and fails — can occupy one of these without any loss of their hard-earned status as A-list political leaders.

Take for example the former Health minister, James Macharia, who is now in the Transport and Infrastructure, docket. He has within his ministry five distinct dockets, each being referred to “state department” with its own principal secretary.

All the top opposition leaders are men who had earlier served as Vice President, Prime Minister, or in a key Cabinet office. Are we to believe that any specific opposition leader would rather risk five more years in the cold, than accept to occupy a multi-portfolio Cabinet office such as that currently held by Macharia? That they would willingly forgo these virtually prime-ministerial powers and responsibilities?

And speaking of virtually prime-ministerial powers and responsibilities, even the great Macharia in his current office, cannot hold a candle to what we saw of the now-disgraced former CS for Planning and Devolution, Anne Waiguru, in her heyday.

I cannot remember exactly what her full title was; but I do recall that she had immense powers over the devolved county governments, along with a really huge slice of the national Budget.

These are clear examples of how more top positions in government can be created — well within the law — to accommodate the ambitions of those opposition leaders who lose out when a single opposition “flagbearer” is eventually selected.

So if the opposition chiefs cannot remain united, they deserve to lose to the incumbent.

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