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Crowded Nakuru Town West field as Jubilee plots to lock out ODM

Nakuru Town west Parliamentary aspirant Francisca Kamuren. PHOTO:KIPSANG JOSEPH

The Nakuru Town West parliamentary seat has attracted an array of aspirants seeking to unseat the incumbent, Samuel Arama, in the August 8 elections.

Nakuru Town West is the only one of the county’s 11 constituencies that is represented by an Opposition legislator.

Mr Arama was elected on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party ticket in 2013 but has since shifted his political allegiance to the ruling Jubilee coalition.

The politician has already indicated that he will defend the seat on a Jubilee Party ticket.

His decision to quit the Orange party has led to major political realignment and pre-election deals that are likely to influence the voting patterns in the cosmopolitan constituency.

At least 20 aspiring politicians from both Jubilee and the National Super Alliance (NASA) have declared their intentions to vie for the seat.

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AS ODM, which is one of the parties under the NASA coalition, strategises on how to retain the seat after Arama’s exit, the Jubilee Party (JP) is working out modalities on how to wrest the position from the Opposition.

Prior to the 2013 polls, Arama was a member of The National Alliance (TNA) party but jumped ship to join the Raila Odinga-led ODM.

Arama garnered 19,959 of the constituency’s 71,593 registered votes. His closets rival, Charles Maisiba of TNA, managed 17,837 votes while United Republican Party’s Mohammed Suraw received 10,540, with all the other candidates getting less than 2,500 votes.

Analysts say with the merger of the 12 Jubilee affiliate parties that formed the Jubilee Party, the Orange party will have to work extra hard to retain the seat.

“Mr Arama has since moved to JP, it will be a bigger mountain to climb for ODM, taking into consideration the fact that the area is a Jubilee zone and that if the JP will field a single candidate, the ‘tyranny of numbers’ will apply here,” observed Andrew Nyabuto, a local political commentator.

The Jubilee Party candidates are John Kitilit, Victor Ngatia, Mwangi Kariko, Charles Maisiba, William Towet, Mohamed Suraw, Francisca Kamuren, Jimmy Ojwang, and Arama.

The opposition candidates include Eric Ogada, Sospeter Nyakundi, Hezron Okiki, Dr Isoe Ochoki, Peter Ndubi, Likwilo Ndeta, and James Michoma.

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According to local Jubilee diehards, the party’s strategy is to prevent any possible fallout after the primaries by ensuring that the process to pick the right candidate to face the opposition is free and fair.

“One of our strategies to capture the Nakuru Town West parliamentary seat is to ensure that the nomination process is fair so that all the losers can support the winner,” said James Karimi, a businessman who has been vocal in calling for unity among the aspirants.

Karimi says Jubilee has the numbers in the constituency and that the only reason ODM won in 2013 was because TNA and URP field candidates separately despite being in one coalition.

“If you look at the results, you will realise that the votes cast for the TNA and URP candidates are more than what the ODM candidate garnered,” he observes.

But ODM Nakuru County chairman Peter ole Osono says the party is alive to the tactics being employed by the ruling Jubilee coalition to snatch the seat from the Opposition.

Mr Osono said he was confident that ODM would retain the seat despite Arama’s decamping to Jubilee.

“Arama may have left ODM but he left alone. He never took away the supporters of the party. His defection will not affect the numbers we have in the constituency,” he says.

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 Arama explains that his decision to join Jubilee was not a selfish one.

He says his constituents, more than others in the region, have benefited greatly under the Jubilee leadership.

Arama, who announced his defection on March 17 this year during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tour of the county, says major roads in his constituency have been rehabilitated and at least three schools upgraded.

He dismissed the Opposition, saying it has noting to offer Kenyans except criticising the Government.

“I made the decision because I will serve the people of Nakuru Town West far much better when in Government than in the Opposition,” he told The Standard in an interview.

Nakuru Town West constituency comprises six electoral wards that are predominantly occupied by low-income earners who eke out a living from working in the informal sector.

Most of the residents are people from the western Kenya and Nyanza regions who moved to Nakuru County in search of employment.

Analysts say Arama’s win in the last General Election on an ODM ticket gave hope to the group that felt left out in the leadership of the county that appeared dominated by two ethnic groups.

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“Most of the residents, especially those from western Kenya and Nyanza, were excited when an ODM legislator won in 2013. We felt represented in the leadership of the cosmopolitan county,” says Hilton Abiola, the ODM county secretary.

Mr Abiola says ODM must retain the Nakuru Town West seat to ensure ethnic balance in the county.

“We want to feel that we are part of the county leadership and we are going to mobilise our supporters to rally behind one opposition candidate,” he said, adding that the local Ford Kenya, Wiper Party, ODM, and ANC leaderships were working on backing one Opposition candidate.

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