Opposition leaders inches closer to naming flagbearer for 2017

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 flagbearer
ODM party leader Raila Odinga (left) and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula address residents of Bungoma at Posta Grounds on January 28, 2017, during a voters registration campaign. The leaders will meet to decide on matters concerning the coalition’s flagbearer. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Two crucial meetings lined up for today and tomorrow could provide a strong indicator of who among the four opposition luminaries will be fronted as the presidential candidate to take on President Uhuru Kenyatta at the August elections.

Today’s consultative meeting, billed by members of the technical committee working on modalities of crafting ground rules as a “turning point”, promises to re-draw the country’s electoral landscape, something strategists in Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee will be keenly following.

Mr Raila Odinga (ODM), Mr Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Mr Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) and Mr Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) are each seeking the opposition presidential ticket in what could end up in a boardroom settlement to save the National Super Alliance (Nasa) from fallout before the August 8 General Election.

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The four are racing against the self-imposed February deadline of unveiling the torchbearer even though there are strong indications this will be pushed by a few weeks, possibly into March, to allow more time for the negotiations.

Mr Musyoka confirmed the meeting and said it will not be the first time they are meeting over who among them will fly the opposition’s flag.

“I have not spoken to my colleagues today since we are all in the field asking our supporters to register as voters. I will, however, have a chance to do so later in the evening so we are clearer about the meeting,” he told the Sunday Nation on the phone while travelling to Makueni on Saturday.

Be that as it may, agreeing on a candidate poses the most arduous challenge to the opposition and they can only be sure to face the elections as a unit after it is all done and settled.

Some opposition leaders, who spoke to the Sunday Nation in confidence, claimed they were aware of a scheme by Jubilee, their main competitors, to prevent such unity which could complicate matters for Mr Kenyatta’s re-election.

And although leading Jubilee members like Deputy President William Ruto insist that Nasa is not a threat to their hold onto power, they are said to be keen to have at least one of the principals extricate from the coalition.

THE LINEUP
Equally, they will be discussing the criteria to guide constituent parties in fielding candidates in different parts of the country, a sticky issue Cord insiders say saw them lose a number of parliamentary seats to Jubilee due to “political cannibalism”.

The meeting had earlier been scheduled for Thursday at a golf club in Nairobi but was postponed at the last minute when it turned out that two of the politicians did not make it back to Nairobi from the voter mobilisation drive.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is running a month-long exercise to enlist new voters.

A senior member of the coalition intimated to us that supporters of the affiliate parties will know the roadmap agreed on starting the end of next week.

He further said they will start weekly briefings to help tame growing anxiety among supporters who feel they were taking too long to agree on the lineup.

The source said age, the most potent combination, acceptability and network will be key in choosing “the first among equals” even as it emerges that an increasing number of opposition members are against nomination as a way of settling the matter.

The popular feeling is that subjecting the process to a vote will not only be divisive but could also expose it to external interference.

As a general strategy, an opponent would want to influence the installation of a weaker opponent to increase their chances of winning at the elections proper.

After the meeting, the principals are expected to meet their party members and prepare them for the eventual decision they will be arriving at.

READ: How Jubilee tried to scuttle Raila, Mudavadi rally

The opposition has been reluctant to release names of those who make up the technical team as a way of lessening external interference with reports the National Intelligence Service (NIS) is out to keep a keen eye on the developments.

The names will, however, be released to the public any time after tomorrow.

But even more important is the Wiper meeting convened by Mr Musyoka on Monday that has come to signal the speed with which the coalition partners are demonstrating the will to curb any likely fallouts.

Described as a house keeping meeting, it comes at a time the former vice-president is facing mounting challenges in his Ukambani backyard both from within and without the Wiper party.

We understand his coalition partners are concerned that the turbulence may harm the overall health of the alliance.

POLITICAL DIRECTION

The luncheon at Mr Musyoka’s Karen home in Nairobi comes in the wake of an acrimonious voter registration sensitisation tour of the lower Eastern region last week where some of the MPs walked out on their party boss, protesting alleged poor handling of sensitive party matters.

“The party leader has invited us for lunch on Monday and it is expected to be a stormy meeting given what has been happening in the party,” Kitui East MP Mutua Muluvi told the Sunday Nation on the phone.

So bitter have the simmering differences become that some of Mr Musyoka’s grounded supporters like Kitui Senator and Wiper chairman David Musila have said the party will not be dragged out of Cord and that were Mr Musyoka to bolt out of the coalition, he will be pursuing such an ambition alone.

“If our party leader decides to run the presidential race on his own outside the opposition umbrella, he will go that route alone,” Mr Musila said.

Even though Mr Musyoka is on record as committing that he is in the alliance to stay, we understand he is under immense pressure from some of his advisers to go it alone in the State House bid, a decision that could work in Jubilee’s favour.

The Kitui Senator said the party leadership had a huge responsibility of providing the best political direction for its supporters across the country and that there was no room for a third force to win the elections.

The politicians are expected to ask Mr Musyoka to remain neutral in the contest for various elective seats across the county.

Yesterday, Mr Mudavadi said he was confident that together with his colleagues, they will soon settle on an individual among them to fly the Nasa flag.

“I am assuring Kenyans that we will not let them down on this, our unity is the surest way of saving Kenyans from Jubilee’s misrule. That announcement will be sooner than later,” he said.

Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula already had their separate meeting on Monday at Karen Country Club, a meeting we understand was dominated by talks of how to pull together as western leaders in the quest for the flagbearer.

-nation.co.ke

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