Independents under fire for cosying up to Uhuru, Raila

Candidates sponsored by major parties have launched a last-ditch attempt to fight off independent candidates associating themselves with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Jubilee and National Super Alliance (NASA) candidates had hoped to have an edge, but the independents pulled a fast one by associating their campaigns with with the two leaders, in some areas even forcing Uhuru and Raila not to endorse their party candidates.

Faced with a stiff challenge from independent candidates, at least four governor candidates and a host of MP and MCA hopefuls drawn from the two coalitions, have moved to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) seeking disqualification or punishment of their opponents.

Confusing supporters

At the centre of the rivalry is the use of Uhuru and Raila’s portraits in campaign materials as well as alleged use of the two main outfits’ colours and symbols.

They have accused their opponents of blackmailing Uhuru and Raila into supporting them, thus denying them opportunity to benefit from the leaders’ popularity in their respective strongholds.

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They also claim that colours used by the independents were confusing their supporters and that the independents could as a result earn themselves votes fraudulently on August 8.

The candidates from the two popular outfits are also on the warpath with candidates from fringe parties who have also declared support to for the two presidential front-runners.

Wednseday, Laikipia governorship independent candidate Ndiritu Muriithi was before the Electoral Code of Conduct Committee chaired by Wafula Chebukati over claims of using Jubilee colours and symbols. This was after Governor Joshua Irungu’s perceived ally petitioned IEBC to stop Mr Muriithi from associating himself with Uhuru and Jubilee Party.

In his defence, Muriithi denied using symbols of the ruling party but defended his decision to use Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto’s portraits in his posters and banners.

“They (Uhuru and Ruto) are my choice for the presidency… certainly, I am entitled to associate with them. Uhuru and Ruto have also openly associated themselves with me and have not expressed any discomfort in my presence around them,” said Muriithi.

“Why should it bother Irungu that I am close to the President? He has the Jubilee ticket, and should be happy because the party is popular in Laikipia. This case tells you something that Irungu is unpopular and is running scared of losing the seat despite having the Jubilee ticket,” he added.

In Kisumu, ODM candidate Anyang’ Nyong’o wants the commission to punish Governor Jack Ranguma (independent) for using colours similar to those of the NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s Orange party.

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Prof Nyong’o claims this was increasingly causing confusion among his supporters but Ranguma argues that colours are universal and that the senator is scared of losing in the contest.

Appearing before IEBC’s committee on Tuesday, Jubilee candidate for Lamu County Woman Rep Ruweida Olo Mohamed asked Mr Chebukati to disqualify Monica Muthomi (independent) for using Jubilee symbols and “making” Uhuru not to endorse her when he campaigned in Lamu on Monday.

“It is only this commission that can rescue presidential candidates from immense pressure from candidates who want to benefit from political blackmail. We request the commission to disqualify the respondent,” said Ms Mohammed through her lawyer.

Governor Moses Akaranga has also been dragged before the commission by Amani National Congress (ANC) candidate Ibrahim Memba.

Mr Memba has asked Chebukati to punish Akaranga for associating himself with NASA leaders Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula.

He argues that Akaranga, who is running on a Progressive Party of Kenya ticket, has been conducting his campaigns as if he is a member of the NASA coalition.

But while defending himself, Mr Akaranga told the commission that he has close working relationship with NASA and that his outfit has an agreement with the coalition.

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37 cases

He told the committee that NASA leaders have more than once tasked him to spearhead their campaign preparations in the county.

In Migori, Governor Okoth Obado wants the electoral body to punish his main opponent Ochillo Ayacko for using ODM colours and symbols.

It was the same case between Kasarani Jubilee candidate Mercy Gakuya and independent aspirant John Njoroge. Ms Gakuya is accusing the incumbent, Mr Njoroge, of using posters bearing Jubilee colours and symbols after losing in the party primaries.

In at least 37 cases involving about 80 candidates, posters with symbols and colours said to be akin to the major parties’ were produced as evidence.

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