The date has been set for Kangema constituency by-election and indications are the replacement of late John Michuki will be a litmus test for Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission on Tuesday announced the by-elections for Kangema together with those of Kajiado North and Ndhiwa constituencies would be held on September 17.
Kangema has been without an MP since February when Michuki, then the Environment minister, died at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, two days after arriving from the United Kingdom where he was undergoing treatment.
Uhuru launched The National Alliance Party in May and declared it his State House vehicle and already many of the aspirants have formed a beeline for the party.
But it will also be interesting to see whether Uhuru’s critic in Central Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi will also field a candidate under the Alliance Party of Kenya Party, which he heads. Murungu has vowed he would fight to ensure TNA does not eclipse his party.
The outcome of the by-election is likely to determine the voting pattern of the Mount Kenya region in the March 4 General Election.
The juicier part is that the constituency falls in Murang’a County, where presidential aspirant Peter Kenneth, who has declared his candidature on the Kenya National Congress Party, hails from.
Kenneth is taking a stab at the presidency against the Uhuru’s perceived political supremacy in Mount Kenya region.
In a way, the by-election is expected to turn out to be a supremacy battle between Uhuru and Kenneth who are determined to show their might.
Then there is Narc-Kenya’s Martha Karua, who has refused to bow to pressure to have the region subscribe to one political party.
Karua has more than once dismissed the suggestion as repressive. On Monday, she declared democracy allows everyone to join the party of their choice.
“Politics is like a shop where the owner markets his products and leaves the customer to pick the best and the most attractive without any undue influence,” Karua said.
She said it was ironical that some leaders were demanding the dissolution of certain parties yet Kenyans fought to allow many parties to compete democratically.
“This is tantamount to returning the country to the dark past. Kenyans should shun such retrogressive leaders who have no agenda for the country apart from their own selfish political gains,” Karua went on.
Karua is yet to indicate whether Narc-Kenya would be fielding a candidate in Kangema. But the party’s representation would make the battle more competitive and raise the stakes.
Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri’s Grand National Union (GNU) that caused a scare in Othaya late last year is also on the cards and maybe willing to test its popularity again.
GNU was catapulted to national fame when it forced President Kibaki to pitch tent in his Othaya constituency for three days to campaign for a Party of National Unity councillor. This was after PNU felt it was going to lose the Karima ward seat to GNU.
Speaking to The Standard on Tuesday, however, Kiunjuri said the party was yet to decide on whether to field a candidate in the Kangema by-election.
Recently, while indicating KNC may field a candidate in the by-election, Kenneth said should anyone express interest on his party ticket, it would offer support. “If there is anyone who wants to run on a KNC ticket, we would give them clearance and the support,” Kenneth told a meeting at Kahatia in the neighbouring Kiharu constituency.
To show the seriousness with which TNA accord late Michuki’s seat, party officials first pitched tent in Murang’a to assure potential candidates the nominations would be free and fair.
Most of those who have declared interest in the seat left vacant by the death of Michuki, who is associated with the rallying call that Uhuru is the de facto leader of central Kenya and any negotiations with the region has to be through him, are largely identifying themselves with TNA.
Most of them, however, feel that should the nomination not favour them they would defect to other ‘friendly’ parties.
“We are closely monitoring the situation, if all does not go well in TNA we have other options. GNU, Safina, and Alliance Party of Kenya are alternatives,” said one of the aspirants who preferred anonymity for fear of isolation in TNA.
TNA Secretary General Onyango Oloo said apart from Kangema, the party would field candidates in Kajiado North and Ndhiwa, which were held by late Internal Security minister George Saitoti and his late Assistant minister Joshua Ojode. Both died in the June 10 police chopper crash in Ngong.
Oloo confirmed it would be a litmus test for the party, as it would be participating in the elective parliamentary positions for the first time.
“We don’t think it will be a supremacy battle between Uhuru and other aspirants in the Mount Kenya region particularly in Kangema. The by-election will present an opportunity for the party to test its strength,’’ he added.
He declared the party “would put up a serious onslaught” in the coming by-elections, saying their opponents should be ready for a battle.
Among the aspirants who have declared interest in Kangema are Kimani Mugo, Samson Mwangi Kaguma, and Sam Gatitu.
Ms Annie Wangari Kirima, a daughter of the former Assistant Minister the late Gerishon Kirima, has also shown interest in the seat.
Speaking of the impending by-election, the National Coordinator of Uhuru Mashinani initiative John Njuguna said the polls would present an opportunity to market TNA.
By Francis Ngige, The Standard