Small-margin win in Kiambaa a problem for DP
As the dust settles on the Kiambaa poll win by Deputy President William Ruto’s UDA party, his strategists will have to contend with an emerging reality; that he might share the Mount Kenya vote with President Kenyatta.
This is a potential nightmare for the DP as he needs more than a 90 per cent turnout like Jubilee did in 2013 and 2017 to clinch the presidency.
On the other hand, Ruto’s win complicates any coalition President Kenyatta may seek to craft as he has to prove that he can take Mt Kenya from Dr Ruto and deliver it to his preferred candidate.
A number of observers and insiders have pointed out that if the small-margin win by Mr John Njuguna Wanjiku against Jubilee Party’s Kariri Njama is to be extrapolated to the larger Mount Kenya region, the DP may have to reconsider what he sees as his strongholds ahead of the titanic duel expected next year.
Mr Wanjiku garnered 21, 773 with Mr Njama having 21,263 votes.
Some pundits hold that Dr Ruto needs an overwhelming vote in Central Kenya to combine with his Rift Valley backyard if he must trounce a possible alliance President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga are trying to craft.
Even though Jubilee lost in Kiambaa, its performance was an improvement from last May’s Juja by-election where it lost to the little known People's Empowerment Party, which is linked to Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.
The tyranny of numbers (a solid backing by his Rift Valley backyard and Central Kenya like it happened in 2013 and 2017) forms a key cog of the DP’s 2022 winning formula, and his handlers admit a massive turnout in his favour would be the deciding factor.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru said this is probably the best UDA will do in Central Kenya as she also poured cold water on the outcome of the by-election
“This should worry DP Ruto who needs 101 per cent of Mount Kenya support if his candidacy is to convert to the State House. In Kenya’s electoral history, by-elections have always been outliers with little or no relationship to the general election,” she wrote.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said the Kiambaa show by the Jubilee candidate had accorded them an opportunity to lock the DP out of the mountain in the subsequent polls.
“Three weeks of Jubilee campaign chipped away 50 per cent of a four-year Hustler narrative in Kiambaa and Muguga. We know what to do,” he said.
The Saturday Nation has learnt that a planned post-mortem by the ruling party on Kiambaa will be rooting for concerted grassroots engagement in the Central region to help tilt the scales away from UDA. They feel the Kiambaa “experiment” has shown that the Mount Kenya vote has not gone to the DP like initially thought.
In fact, some of the President’s men say that by consolidating other parts of the country under a broad-based alliance and denying the DP 60 per cent of the Central vote, his State House ambition will dissipate.
Prof Ngugi Njoroge, a political analyst, observed that the President, perhaps out of the realisation that he cannot dissuade them from supporting the DP, was out to divide the Mount Kenya vote like he did in the 2002 polls when he ran against Mwai Kibaki and managed 1,835,890 votes against President Kibaki’s 3,646,277.
“Were it not that there were other voting blocks that had partnered with his community, Mr Kibaki would have failed to win… President Kenyatta managed to grab 30 per cent of Central region vote from him, a replica of what he has confirmed ability to do in the 2022 succession, hence denying the region a bloc vote,” he said.
In instances when the Mount Kenya has voted as a block, they have been on the winning side.
In 2013 Mr Kenyatta was declared the winner with 50.5 per cent of the votes cast with Mr Odinga garnering 43.7 per cent.
That year, Murang’a had a turnout of 94 per cent, Kiambu 91 per cent while Nyandarua, Nyeri and Kirinyaga recorded 94 per cent, 93 per cent and 91 per cent respectively all cast in Mr Kenyatta’s favour. The trend was replicated in 2017.
The presidential elections of 2002, when the rest of the country (Rift Valley and President Kenyatta’s faction of Central pulled in a different direction) backed Mr Kibaki, is an exception.
If the DP does not get bloc support of the region, he will have to work extra hard to compensate for this in other areas to become president.
“It clearly shows that the tyranny of numbers is now a mirage if they continue to pull in different positions. The region needs a factory reset on its political system to reassemble cohesiveness so that its numbers can be respected in 2022,” Prof Njoroge said.
However, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, one of Dr Ruto’s point men in the region, sought to downplay the small victory margin saying Jubilee was unpopular in the President’s backyard to the extent that the votes Mr Njama obtained were in his own right and not courtesy of the party.
“In elections, there is no number two, only number one. This was a clear message to Uhuru Kenyatta that the region will not allow anybody to direct it on how to vote in the next presidential election. The victory marks DP Ruto’s journey to the State House,” he said.
Mr Silas Jakakimba, a former aide of ODM leader Raila Odinga, is of the view that DP Ruto must stage a complete takeover of the mountain to realise his State House dream.
“Kiambaa has spoken, and loudly so, about the odds against William’s bid. He needs at least 95 per cent of Mount Kenya votes, in a near-100 per cent turn-out, to get an honourable second position in the 2022 polls. The myth that he had long edged out Uhuru has been debunked,” he said.
But lawyer Steve Ogolla disagrees.
“DP Ruto was never under pressure to win Kiambaa. It is the people who sought to dilute his influence in Mount Kenya that desperately needed to lock him and UDA out. They failed. The point is, as it is, DP Ruto is set to win the presidency.”
Yesterday, Kieni MP Kanini Kega, who spearheaded Jubilee’s campaigns in Kiambaa, said compared to Juja, the results in Kiambaa indicates that the party is on an upwards trajectory and will reclaim its position in 2022.
“The margin of the defeat is not like in Juja. It shows that we did a good job,” he said, hinting that the next phase of the rejuvenation is a clean-up of officials.
The MP revealed that the improved performance in Kiambaa was as a result of a united front the party members have forged, focus and becoming smarter.
“One will be over-stretching imaginations if he believes that the outcome in Kiambaa reflects the future,” he said, pointing out major decisions of the Kikuyu nation are not made in political rallies. “Our community is very regimental and we shall have a major rally where the future of the community will be made.”
While he admitted that UDA deserves bragging rights for now, political analyst Martin Andati downplayed the impact of the victory to DP Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid, saying the margin of victory doesn’t not instil confidence in UDA’s supposed inroad into Mount Kenya.
Stung by the stiff competition they were facing in 2013 and 2017 presidential elections from Mr Odinga, the UhuRuto ticket went on an overdrive to ensure the voter turnout in their strongholds was over 90 per cent to secure victory.
Additional reporting by Mwangi Muiruri