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Delay in picking flag bearer could be Cord’s death knell

 Peninah Muriithi

All is not well in Cord, just over a year to the next polls. Two weeks ago, during the homecoming party for Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama, Wiper party chairman David Musila insinuated that the Kamba community had one foot in the coalition and the other at the door.

By challenging Cord to name its presidential candidate within a month, he was, in effect saying the Kamba people, who voted overwhelmingly for Raila Odinga in 2013, were ready to quit unless Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka was named the flag bearer. But it is not only in Kambaland where trouble is brewing for Cord.

If recent events are anything to go by, then the coalition, if it still will be one, and Raila’s support will be confined to Luo Nyanza well before we enter the homestretch for the 2017 elections.

In the last few weeks, two key Western region politicians —ODM secretary general, Ababu Namwamba and the party vice chairman Paul Otuoma— quit their positions, citing frustrations and disrespect by the party top brass. They were followed, days later, by John Waluke, the party’s Sirisia MP and Bungoma ODM chairman.

Similar political moves have been witnessed in the last few days in Kisii and Kuria. Kisii politicians, among them ODM stalwart and Kisii Senator Chris Obure, hinted that a new political outfit for the Abagusii was in the offing. As if picking the cue from his Abagusii counterparts, Migori Senator Wilfred Machage let it known that he will be leading his Kuria community out of ODM.

It is not clear how Luhya voters, the second largest in the country, will respond to the latest political manoeuvring but the latest opinion polls, which put President Uhuru Kenyatta’s approval ratings at 68 per cent, could be an indicator that some key vote-rich regions which have supported Raila in the past are gravitating towards Jubilee.

It is not difficult to see why. First, Raila has unsuccessfully run for President thrice. A number of analysts wonder how the opposition can have a realistic chance in 2017 with less support than he did in 2007. A number of Opposition-leaning regions are waking up to the reality that beating incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta won’t be a walk in the park.

Secondly, it is not lost on voters, including the opposition’s ardent supporters, that Cord has demonstrated a lack of organisation and coherency in strategy since the last elections. This, together with ODM’s violent streak and chaotic nominations, is dealing the party a big blow as Raila prepares for what many believe is his last stab at the presidency.

The shifts in apparent political loyalty are leaving Cord exposed and reinforcing the narrative that the 2017 presidential contest is already won. Although one year is a long time in politics, it is difficult to see how the Opposition leader will pull another surprise from his bag of tricks with diminishing support.

To inject fresh energy into the coalition, Cord must heed the advice of Musila and name its flag bearer immediately. Fallout in Cord, particularly if Raila is named the flag bearer, seems inevitable.

Therefore, delaying the announcement in the hope it will block potential defections is an exercise in futility. In any case, it is far better to experience the fallout at this stage than to wait till a few months to the polls. It will give the eventual candidate time to rebuild the coalition and enter into new alliances in time for the August 2017 polls. The writer is a communications advisor at the Africa Centre for Strategic Futures—[email protected]

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