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SUCCESSION POLITICS

Ruto considering Muturi, Waiguru for 2022 running-mate

The Deputy President is on the horns of a dilemma amid reports he is not spoilt for choice for a DP but walking a tightrope in identifying one.

In Summary

• Analysts warn that Ruto's ambitions may be vanquished if he settles on a weaker DP.

• DP allies say the field is wide open to rope in someone with political clout. 

Deputy President William Ruto and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.
Deputy President William Ruto and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.
Image: DPPS

Deputy President William Ruto is in a dilemma over his 2022 running mate despite perceptions that he is spoilt for choice.

Torn between retaining President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya base and appeasing other regions, Ruto faces an uphill task in selecting a potential DP.

Selecting a Mount Kenya running mate would make it easier for Ruto to woo Uhuru’s supporters but has the danger of entrenching the “two communities in the Presidency” narrative that can work against him.

 
 
 

In Mt Kenya, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria are possible candidates.

The three are seen as the major contenders from the region with the focus now on what in their strengths work best for Ruto.

Ruto also has the Western Kenya headache. The region is demanding that he considers one of their own.

The front-runners from the region are Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka.

Coast has been another keen focus for Ruto with Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and his Kwale counterpart Salim Muvrya being touted as possibilities.

Ukambani region may also join the fray with Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua announcing that he would be running for President.

Former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka is also seen as a potential candidate and the two may use this to negotiate with Ruto.

 
 
 

There are concerns that allies waiting in anticipation of being named Ruto’s DP are political lightweights with no clout necessary for the position.

Soi MP Caleb Kositany yesterday confirmed that the DP could have a headache in identifying his running mate.

“It is too early to talk about a running mate now but I admit it is not a walk in the park,” said the close DP ally.

But he warned that a lot could change in the political landscape with 36 months to the next general elections.

However, the DP on Thursday said it would be up to the Jubilee party members to decide on their presidential flag-bearer in 2022 during the National Delegates Convention.

“If I will not be the flag bearer, I will support the person the Jubilee Party nominates as the presidential candidate. It is not a must I be the candidate,” Ruto said in an interview with Kameme FM.

Ruto, who is considered the front-runner for the Jubilee ticket in 2022, said the Party members will convene and decide on a flag bearer for the presidency and the other elective seats including the deputy president.

Ruto said he is ready to retire and go home with President Uhuru Kenyatta should he lose the polls in 2022.

Despite the heightened jostling among politicians, political analysts have said that the DP is walking a political tightrope to pick a candidate with immense political influence.

The DP’s strategists say whoever will be picked as deputy must have a firm grip on their political backyard so as to add significant votes to Ruto’s basket to successfully parry the opposition onslaught.

The Star has established that the DP’s trusted allies are pushing him to court at least one key opposition figure with a wide following to fortify his State House bid amid mixed signals from Uhuru’s Central backyard.

According to insiders aware of the behind-the-scenes manoeuvres to steady Ruto’s presidential bid, the deputy president candidate won’t be a “flower” girl but one with a substantial voting bloc.

“It is not about picking a running mate, it is also about ensuring that the man or woman who will be the country’s number two brings on board some value,” a senior Jubilee senator from Rift Valley told the Star.

The Deputy President became President Uhuru Kenyatta’s running mate because he had the whole of Rift Valley behind him. Actually, we were talking about the millions of voters behind Ruto.
Rift Valley Jubilee Senator

This has made the DP’s strategists expand their options for Ruto’s running mate beyond the ruling Jubilee party so as to consolidate his chances of succeeding President Uhuru.

The plan is that if Ruto manages to win over the support of the opposition leader, then the bigwig would be convinced to join the Jubilee party.

The plan could jolt a couple of politicians from central Kenya and Western region positioning themselves to deputise Ruto.

Other politicians from Uhuru’s backyard seen as potential running mates are Agriculture CS Mwangi Kinujuri, his Trade counterpart Peter Munya and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.

It was not until two weeks ago that Speaker Muturi’s name came up as a possible running mate when Ruto visited Embu.

MPs from the county asked other Mt Kenya counties to allow Embu to be given the opportunity to get into the Presidency.

In response, Ruto said that Muturi was already number three in the country’s leadership hierarchy and “we can discuss his promotion when the time comes.” 

However, National Assembly majority whip Benjamin Washiali played down reports the DP is scouring the country for a running mate.

“The Deputy President will make the right choice when the right time comes,” the Mumias East MP told the Star in an interview.

He went on, “We are not in a campaign mode. The DP is just touring the country to inspect development projects and because of his generosity donate to churches.”

While it is widely perceived that the DP could have easily settled for a running-mate from his close allies, that decision is compounded by the fact that some of the candidates lack strong community or regional backing to guarantee Ruto votes.

Political analyst Mark Bichachi told the Star the DP could lose the 2022 polls if he doesn’t manage to successfully woo any of the opposition bigwigs.

“Ruto is in a dilemma not because he has too many choices but because he has none to choose from,” Bichachi said in an interview.

He said Ruto has nobody within his camp who commands the same following he had in 2013 and 2017 when he supported President Uhuru.

“All the potential deputy president candidates with political clout are his opponents. This is Ruto’s biggest dilemma,” he said.

Bichachi said the DP must woo either ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo, Oparanya or Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho for him to win the next polls.

However, the four have said they will run for president in 2022 and asked Ruto to support them.

The Star has established that the DP’s frenetic tours across the country are part of his elaborate strategy to force his influential opponents to negotiate, by first turning tables against rivals in their own backyards.

For instance, the DP has camped in Western Kenya in a whirlwind of tours, harambees and church services to weaken the foothold of key opposition figures from the region.

Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi is considered the Western Kenya regional kingpin but sub-tribe politics have elevated Ford Kenya boss Moses Wetangua in the region.

Tellingly, opposition chief Raila Odinga commands massive following in Western region given his performance in the last three general elections, further complicating the DP’s strategy.

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