Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa,making his remarks during the launch of Jubilee Manifestos at Kasarani indoors arena in Nairobi on 26 June 2017.Photo by Edward Kiplimo.
In a perfect world, the current election battle in Kenya should be a 2017 affair. However, politics being a matter of balancing short and long-term interests, this is not the case.
The campaign messages from both President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, have in the past few days been laced with undertones of the 2022 election.
The NASA presidential flag-bearer, Raila Odinga is applying a similar strategy.
The promises are being made in regions that believe that their son or daughter has a realistic chance of winning the presidency in the next polls.
On Saturday the top two Jubilee Party (JP) leaders, while on a two-day campaign tour of the lower eastern region, told NASA’s presidential running mate Kalonzo Musyoka to join their party in preparation for 2022, claiming that his future in the Opposition was uncertain.
In a rejoinder on Tuesday, Raila dismissed the overtures to Kalonzo, indicating that after his fourth stub at the presidency in the coming polls, he would support his running mate’s bid for the top seat.
Dangling the carrot
And he was not the only politician dangling the carrot. While campaigning in Bungoma County on the same day, William Ruto urged the residents of western Kenya to support Jubilee, promising to pick Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa as his running mate in 2022.
Mr Ruto argued that the Luhya community stood a better chance of ascending to power in the future if it backed JP in the August elections.
“My friends, I ask you to support us as we are in this together. You have a realistic chance of winning. I will pick Eugene as my running mate and when I complete my term, I will support him to ascend to the top seat,” he said in Kapsokwony.
Political commentators have varied opinions on whether the 2022 factor is shaping the current campaigns and, by extension, the outcome of the August 8 elections.
According to Macharia Munene, a lecturer at the United States International University, the issue will influence the election debate but may have little or no impact on how Kenyans vote next month.
“The message may not sway voters to either Jubilee or NASA. Most Kenyans know that our country’s politics is highly dynamic and 2022 maybe a different ball game altogether, with new political outfits and players,” he says.
Prof Munene explains that apart from President Kenyatta, who cannot run for another term because of constitutional limitations, there is no guarantee that Raila will not be on the ballot in 2022.
“The assumption is beyond Uhuru and Raila, with the forgone conclusion in this new strategy being that the two leaders will not be gunning for office. This may not be true in the case of the NASA chief,” adds Munene.
Moi University lecturer and political analyst Masibo Lumala says the 2022 message resonates well with the public during campaign rallies, but is quick to dismiss the notion that it would shore up numbers for any of the coalitions.
“I do not think the 2022 factor will affect the coming elections. In a country such as Kenya, where parties keep mutating each political year, you cannot predict with precision how the 2022 race will be and who will be calling the shots.
“It will not be accurate to say Ruto will be the automatic JP candidate in 2022. The same applies to Kalonzo in NASA. The party leaders are merely giving their personal opinions in an effort to appease voters,” said Lumala.
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