Candidates from the opposition coalition are competing against each other in 295 contests for the positions of governor, senator, woman representatives and members of the National Assembly.
An analysis of the list of candidates published in the Kenya Gazette by the electoral commission shows that the sibling rivalry within the coalition is strongest at the Coast, Western and Nyanza regions.
There are 17 counties where Nasa candidates are facing each other for the governor’s seat, 21 where they are competing for the Senate seat, 21 for the woman representative’s seat and 136 to represent constituencies in the National Assembly.
Among the significant places where this rivalry is evident and strong is Mombasa where Wiper secretary-general Hassan Omar is seeking to unseat ODM deputy party leader Hassan Joho as governor.
In Kakamega, senator Boni Khalwale is in a contest with another ODM deputy party leader, Wycliffe Oparanya. The coalition has been unable to broker a truce between them.
The situation is also the same in the neighbouring Bungoma County where ODM’s Alfred Khangati, Amani National Congress’ Stephen Mutoro and Ford-Kenya’s Wycliffe Wangamati are seeking to unseat Jubilee Party’s Kenneth Lusaka.
On Saturday, ODM chairman John Mbadi said there were ongoing efforts to have some of the politically weaker candidates step down for stronger opponents to help consolidate votes.
“We looked at the country and felt there were some areas where we could compete as our strongholds and one of our candidates would win.
There are other areas where we felt we did not have much support and created space for parties to field candidates,” said Mr Mbadi.
In areas considered battlegrounds, he said, the coalition tried to field one candidate to consolidate their numbers.
He admitted that it was impossible to reach an agreement in places like Mombasa, Bungoma and Kakamega, where the local rivalries were so strong that no candidate was willing to shelve their ambitions.
In Nairobi, he said, the coalition had agreed on several candidates but still faced sibling rivalry in Dagoretti North, Lang’ata and parts of Embakasi.
These efforts will continue even after the publication of the candidates’ names, he added.
The coalition faces a challenge in the woman representative’s race as the Wiper candidate Rahab Ndambuki has refused to step down for Esther Passaris, the ODM aspirant whom opinion polls released yesterday show is leading.
ODM also considered the ethnic composition of its candidates in the capital city. With a Luo-Kamba collaboration for the governor and running mate, the party has settled for a Kikuyu for the woman representative seat.
Kisii and Nyamira had been treated as safe zones by the Opposition, said Mr Mbadi, but the coalition’s management team has since realised that it could lose the governor and parliamentary seats because of the intra-coalition competition.
“For the presidential race, it is okay. It is our turf but for other seats, if we split our votes, we may provide an opportunity for Jubilee to win seats.
Our coalition management team is looking at them with a view to ensuring that sibling rivalry does not complicate the fight,” he said.
Mr Mbadi added: “You remember when we were in Bungoma, we made it clear that our candidate for the Senate is Wetang’ula. Something like that is happening quietly,” said Mr Mbadi.
From the list of candidates, Mr Wetang’ula is up against ANC’s David Makali, ODM’s Boniface Nyongesa, Jubilee Party’s Eusebius Mukhwana and Chrispus Wamukota, an independent candidate.
In 2013, the Opposition coalition, then known as Cord, faced similar issues and lost the chance to win a majority of the seats and ended up as the minority party in both the Senate and the National Assembly.
Asked about the situation recently, Dr Khalwale preferred to look on the bright side, saying: “Even friendly fire sometimes burns.”
He said having many candidates would eventually work in Nasa’s favour.
“The only beneficiary of the presence of multiple Nasa candidates is Mr Odinga. The candidates will marshall their different troops to vote for them, and in the end, a high voter turnout and votes for the Nasa presidential candidate,” Dr Khalwale told the Nation.
The rivalry threatens to eat into the ruling party’s numbers in the National Assembly and the Senate.