The battle for the Meru Woman Representative seat is one of the most competitive races in Mount Kenya region, and it is shaping into a two horse-race.
The contest between incumbent and lawyer Florence Kajuju of Jubilee Party and Ms Kawira Mwangaza, an independent candidate and a prominent business woman in Meru is being watched with a lot of interest in the region, as the August 8 General Election draws closer.
Ms Mwangaza was initially with Meru Governor Peter Munya’s Party of National Unity (PNU) before defecting to Jubilee Party where she lost to Ms Kajuju in the primaries.
Ms Kajuju won by 131, 349 votes with her rival coming in second with 119,246.
Others in the race to unseat Ms Kajuju are Ms Elizabeth Kailemia of PNU, Ms Susan Kinyua, who is running as an independent and Ms Catherine Kagwiria of Maendeleo Chap Chap.
Ms Kajuju is banking on the work she has done for the county’s residents, key among them the struggle to fight for Miraa (khat) farmers and to have the crop recognised as a cash crop.
She insists that despite having minimal funding, she was able to help famers by sponsoring laws in the National Assembly.
“With the kind of work I have done to Meru people I am sure of retaining my seat. Having fought for miraa famers and some other Bills still in the Parliament meant to help Meru people,” Ms Kajuju added.
However, her opponents have capitalised on Ms Kajuju’s unfulfilled promises to criticise her performance and to promise better leadership.
They single out the water problem, which was one of the Woman Rep’s major campaign issue in 2013, saying she had failed to keep the promise of ensuring women in the semi-arid areas of Igembe, Tigania, parts of Imenti South and Buuri get the commodity in their homes.
“She was unable to fulfill her promises despite having being allocated some cash women and children in most parts of Meru are still struggling to survive,” says Ms Kailemia said.
But it is the contest between Ms Kajuju and Ms Mwangaza which has taken centre stage with the Woman Rep accuses her opponent of taking advantage of a television station she is said to own, to campaign against her unfairly.
The sitting Woman Rep says she had raised her fears with the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to have the matter investigated, arguing it was denting her campaigns.
“The usage of the television station that has a following within the region was giving my opponent undue advantage,” Ms Kajuju said.
She has been directed to gather more facts on her allegations and present to the commission next week.
Even as the matter is the IEBC is said to be investigating the issue, Ms Mwangaza has said she does not own the Meru based Baite TV.
Ms Mwangaza’s entry to Jubilee appeared to have been the beginning of her rivalry with the incumbent.
The move led to the split of a popular outfit that brought together Senator Kiraitu Murungi who is gunning for Meru governorship, Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi who is in the Senate race and Ms Kajuju. The outfit was known as KIKALI.
Ms Mwangaza complained that she had been lured from PNU to Jubilee as a scheme to rig her out of the race.
But Ms Kajuju denies the split saying the Jubilee candidates in Meru still work as a team. “We are still together despite not attending same functions and events. I am confident that all elected leaders in Meru County will be on Jubilee ticket,” she said.