Posted Saturday, June 26 2010 at 21:37
Key politicians have turned the campaigns for and against the proposed constitution into a platform to “secure” key voting blocs in an early start for the 2012 presidential contest.
They hope to ride on the present campaigns to harness their political power which they will then use as a bargaining chip in 2012. The new moves are informed by the requirement in the proposed constitution – should it pass – that a president needs over 50 per cent of all votes cast to win the presidency.
The thinking is that those who will have won the hearts of the voters in their regional backyards can then use that as leverage to negotiate for key positions in the formation of the government after the 2012 elections.
The strategists are reading from the 2005 script where those opposed to the proposed constitution at the time evolved into the Orange Democratic Movement that brought it head to head with incumbent President Kibaki’s PNU at the 2007 elections.
Friday’s endorsement of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta as the de facto leader of the ‘Yes’ campaign in Central Kenya points to a reorganisation of the region’s politics ahead of 2012 in a manner unprecedented since the last General Election.
The meeting in Limuru brought together the old guard mostly viewed as President Kibaki’s lieutenants and Mr Kenyatta’s most outspoken critics.
The move may also be a major upset for other leaders from the region – long serving minister Prof George Saitoti, assistant minister Peter Kenneth and Martha Karua – who have been eyeing the Mt Kenya vote in their quest for the presidency.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka – seen as front runners in the 2012 presidential race – have also been trying to woo the Central Kenya vote. While the endorsement is supposed to largely forge unity among the Central Kenya communities ahead of the referendum, it is filled with undertones leaning towards the 2012 General Election.
On Friday, not only was Mr Kenyatta endorsed to lead the ‘Yes’ campaign but he was also given the task of uniting Central Kenya in future.
It was clear from the resolutions that the renewed friendship among Central Kenya leaders was anchored on more than a quest for a new constitution. One of the resolutions indicated; “This meeting has resolved that we are to work to secure the interests of our people into the future”.
Former Siakago MP and a close ally of Mr Kenyatta Justin Muturi told the Sunday Nation that Central Kenya had been “groping in the dark and had now found its leader”.
“People from the region are hungry for leadership after Kibaki and they have made up their minds. And he (Mr Kenyatta) has not asked for it,” Mr Muturi said.
Ms Karua, who does not see eye to eye with Mr Kenyatta politically, dismissed the meeting and said that she did not see the reason why she would have attended. Speaking after the party’s governing council meeting in Nairobi, she said that her party was national and it did not have time to deal with regional politics.
“I was invited but did not see the need to go for that meeting. We are Narc Kenya, and I am not a regional chief but a leader of a party that is national and focused on national issues,” Ms Karua said.She added that this was the reason that the party has launched the “One Kenya ‘Yes’ Secretariat”.
Political analyst and university lecturer Prof Frank Matanga said: “The move is meant to lock out other leaders who might want to cash in on the referendum campaigns to market themselves ahead of 2012 elections from the region.”
“They might all be in the ‘Yes’ camp but they do not want other key proponents of passage of the proposed constitution to carry the day if the document is passed. Their aim is to also gain credit. To put it simply, they want to have bargaining power come 2012 and also bask in the glory of passage of the constitution to prevent Mr Odinga from being seen as the only one who made it possible,” he said.
In an interview with the Sunday Nation, Prof Matanga said some of the ‘Yes’ proponents’ unease with Mr Odinga’s leadership could have wanted to be in the ‘No’ camp but were forced to be in President Kibaki’s side after he came out forcefully in support of the document.
“They now want to be in ‘Yes’ but under their own terms knowing very well that the referendum is going to heavily influence who becomes the front runner in 2012 polls,” Prof Matanga opined.
Prof Matanga and Nairobi lawyer John Waiganjo said the politicians were not only using the referendum debate to push for either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote but were balkanising the country as they focused on 2012.