Bungoma by-election, Defining moment for CORD
Will voters move towards cooperation with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee government or remain loyal to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his Cord co-principal Moses Wetang’ula?
Wetang’ula is defending the seat that he lost in September when the High Court nullified his election on the grounds of irregularities.
The Luhya community faces a basic choice between Wetang’ula and Musikari Kombo, the candidate of Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani coalition.
Newcomer David Makali has made an impact but is not expected to win.
Defeat for Wetang’ula would indicate that Mudavadi has reasserted his authority over the Luhya community, after apparently being politically isolated.
However, a Wetang’ula victory would give the former minister a new lease of political life and demonstrate that Raila has stamped his authority in a region that backed him in the December 27, 2007 and the March 4, 2013 elections.
Raila has been vigorously campaigning for Wetang’ula and urging the locals to reject Amani, and by extension the Jubilee government.
During the campaigns that ended on Tuesday, the Cord leaders have constantly capitalised on the pact that Amani signed with Jubilee after March 4.
Kombo, a former local government minister, has argued that working with Jubilee will help develop Bungoma. “Nobody should cheat you. Even with devolution the county cannot survive without the good will of government,” said Kombo in one rally.
Bungoma governor Kenneth Lusaka belongs to New Ford Kenya, a party headed by Eugene Wamalwa who opted to work with Jubilee after the March elections.
Kombo said that it would be logical to also elect a senator from the coalition that is friendly to Jubilee.
During the campaigns, Amani claimed that Wetang’ula, while briefly senator, fought Lusaka and derailed the development agenda.
On the other hand, Cord and Wetang’ula have claimed that Jubilee has failed in its short stint in government and Cord is the only alternative.
He said that Jubilee is trying to eliminate opposition through by-elections. Wetang’ula said the national government cannot dictate the agenda of the county and claimed that Amani is misleading the electorate.
“The reason why we voted for devolution is to have self governance in development. We don’t need to be friendly to the government to receive what is rightfully ours,” he told the Star.
Kakamega senator Bonny Khalwale argued that a vote for Wetang’ula will cement the Luhya unity.
“A win for Wetang’ula will mean that the community has officially bestowed him the mandate to lead it on the rightful political path after the dismal performance of Mudavadi,” he said.
“That is wishful thinking. Wetang’ula should forget that he can ever be the Luhya supremo. When we came together to support Musalia in the last elections, he was the first one to call us tribalists,” said New Ford-Kenya leader Eugene Wamalwa.
Political observers however believe that a win for Wetang’ula would sink the political careers of Wamalwa and Musalia.
His victory on March 4 propelled Wetang’ula beyond Mudavadi and Eugene in the race for Luhya leadership.
His subsequent election as the Senate Minority Leader effectively made him the titular leader of the Luhya.
If he loses today, the Luhya leadership struggle will once again be wide open.