Lamu’s Jubilee Party woman representative candidate Ruweida Obo displays her certificate after being cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]
Lamu County is set for what is being billed as the fiercest political battle for the senatorial seat following Senator Abu Chiaba’s exit from the political scene.
The Mpeketoni voting bloc will once again come into sharp focus as candidates for the various seats in the county hit the road to woo voters.
Dominated by the Kikuyu community, Mpeketoni, with 17,000 voters, is likely to be a swing vote area; most of the votes are expected to go to Jubilee Party’s presidential and governor candidates.
The vote is likely to be split in the race for the Senate and woman representative seats.
During the 2013 campaigns, President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Mpeketoni five times, signifying Lamu’s importance to his career. But he lost to Raila Odinga by 22,000 to 29,000 votes.
Regarding the Senate seat, the political landscape seems to have changed considerably after Mr Chiaba’s defeat. He who was sent packing in the Jubilee nominations by political minnow Anwar Oloitiptip.
The race now seems to favour Hassan Albeity, who lost to Chiaba in 2013 by less than 300 votes.
Mr Albeity, who is running on a Wiper Democratic Movement party ticket, is a former chairman of the defunct Lamu County Council and brings to the political scene a wealth of experience and networks.
Other contenders for the seat include current County Assembly Speaker Mohammed Hashim of the Amani National Congress (ANC), Mr Oloitiptip (Jubilee) Abdalla Shelali (Orange Democratic Movement) and Mwaura Mwaure of Agano Party.
Chiaba’s defeat spells the end of a colourless political career for an ardent Jubilee supporter who sprang from nowhere in the 1980s, earned Kenyan nationality and ended up becoming the MP for Lamu East.
He was also an assistant minister during the Kibaki administration before capping it by becoming a senator.
In 2013, Chiaba won by 15,086 against Albeity’s 14,686 votes in an election considered one of the closest contests in the county.
The senatorial race is akin to the governorship contest pitting Governor Issa Timamy against his 2013 rivals Fahim Twaha of Jubilee and Swaleh Imu of Wiper.
A newcomer to the race is Abdalla Fadhil and a former county council chairman who is running on an ODM ticket.
Mr Timamy, who is the ANC candidate, has had a headache over winning the Mpeketoni vote even after naming his deputy, Eric Mugo, who comes from the area.
However, Mr Twaha, who contested via The National Alliance (TNA) in 2013, lost despite getting a huge chunk of the Mpeketoni votes.
In the last elections, Timamy, who contested on a United Democratic Forum (UDF) ticket, garnered 19,744 votes while Twaha got 17,785. Albeity also ran on a UDF ticket in 2013.
Local political analysts said Chiaba’s win in 2013 came as a surprise to many as his track record both as MP and assistant minister for Fisheries Development was dismal.
James Karanja, a resident of Mpeketoni, said besides the presidential vote, which will go to Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee, the other seats will be determined on the basis of one’s experience and ability to deliver.
“It is for this reason that somebody like Hassan Albeity stands a better chance given his exposure and experience after serving as the Lamu County Council chairman and also as a businessman and farmer,” said Mr Karanja.
“We are looking for a senator who is going to help the local people fully realise the potential in agriculture through the Equalisation Fund.”
Analysts say the change in Mpeketoni residents’ perception of leadership is good for the county as this will herald a new voting pattern that focuses more on service delivery than tribal inclinations.
Going by previous voting patterns, party affiliations do not count for much in Lamu politics. In 2013, the governor’s seat was won by Timamy (UDF); the Senate seat went to Chiaba of TNA while the woman representative position was taken by Shakila Abdalla of Wiper.
The two parliamentary seats also went to different parties namely Kenya National Congress (Lamu West) and UDF (Lamu East).