Have by-election results shaken the handshake?

In Summary

• The impact of these by-elections also shows people are likely to vote in the referendum based on argument against the person rather than the content of BBI

• Raila is on record saying the results will have serious ramifications on the BBI referendum outcome. 

The December 15 Msambweni by-election results clearly showed the political landscape has changed tremendously.

Hitherto Jubilee and ODM strongholds have been shaken and it’s not business as usual. To begin with, the Msambweni by-election was occasioned by the sudden death of Suleiman Dori, an ODM MP, and just like in the case for Kibra, the Jubilee Party decided not to field a candidate in support of the handshake.

However, Omar Boga of ODM — ideally the party of choice in the region — was beaten by Feisal Bader, who garnered 15,251 against his 10,444. It’s instructive to note that this race was largely seen as a direct contest between ODM leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto.

Raila is on record saying the results will have serious ramifications on the BBI referendum outcome. On the other hand, it was also a contest between Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, against his Kwale counterpart Salim Mvurya. The two don’t get along and the Arab/Swahili versus Mijikenda question came into play.

It’s very interesting to note that Mvurya and Joho had said the outcome of this by-election would greatly determine their political future. In addition, the real question was also to do with the coastal economy and the effects of theSGR on the livelihoods of Wapwani.

In Gaturi ward in Murang’a county, the Jubilee Party lost to Peoples Empowerment Party, with Esther Mwihaki garnering 3,974 against Rosemary Wakuthie’s 3,423.

Mwihaki had crossed over from the Jubilee Party, and had vied for the position in 2017. She finished second as she did in the recent Jubilee primaries. The contest was basically Gatundu South Moses Kuria testing the waters of his PEP outfit against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee.

In Naivasha’s Lakeview ward, New Democratic Party’s candidate Simon Wanyoike Ngigi garnered 1,451 against Jubilee’s George Njoroge who got 983 votes. However, Kevin Ochieng of Jubilee gained 823 votes against PEP’s Bernard Kariuki who clinched 641 votes in Kahawa Wendani, a difference of 182 votes. Kariuki had also emerged second during the Jubilee nominations before crossing over to PEP.

Clearly, Jubilee is no longer the party of choice in its stronghold. For a ruling party to be defeated by greenhorns shows the support base has shifted tremendously. If nothing changes, it’s a matter of time before new parties emerge as vehicles for the next general election. Jubilee, having been cobbled up out of 14 political outfits, looked like a party that would outlast the curse of one election but as things stand, that’s is not the case.

Up and until these by-elections, the handshake looked unshakeable for the longest but with the latest results, it can clearly be. What this means is that in the run up to 2022, there shall be a re-emergence of a plethora of parties competing to replace older and dying ones.

In fact, Central Kenya is likely to witness a scenario similar to the 2007 elections whereby PNU had only 46 MPs against so many small ones that emerged after the collapse of the Narc juggernaut in 2005.

While Raila led rebellion from within to defeat President Mwai Kibaki by leading the NO campaign, a similar scenario is emerging, with the DP playing the opposition role from within government. His supporters are opposing BBI without leading the NO campaign!

This is the same case that happened in 2012, with Uhuru and Ruto who despite being in government, benefited from ‘outsider’ tag as they faced the ICC charges.

Nevertheless, the low turnout in Kahawa Wendani ward, registering a paltry 12.58 per cent, will be a key factor in the next general election.

The impact of these by-elections also shows people are likely to vote in the referendum based on ad hominem considerations rather than the content of the document, and depending on who is backing it.

In the 2005 referendum, for example, the real question was the breach of the MoU between Kibaki and Raila. In 2010, it was about Ruto asserting himself as the Kalenjin leader, away from Raila’s grip on the community in a post-Moi era. In 2021, it may as well be about how Uhuru has treated Ruto and the perceived betrayal therein. In short, the message is as good as the messenger.

It’s also good to factor in the issue of momentum since just like TNA was boosted by the wins in Kangema and Kajiado North by-elections, the upcoming ones in Western Kenya and Machakos county shall respectively provide a good litmus test for who is the real man of the moment.

For the longest, it was Raila and/or Uhuru but of late, the Hustler Nation led by Ruto and his allies seem to have an upper hand. Power abhors vacuum as so is the role of the opposition as an alternative.

However, it’s too early for the young lady to dance herself lame before the real music begins to play.