Politics In Focus: Why Western region is the new frontier for Jubilee, CORD
For years, Western region has been labeled a divided block due to its contrastive voting partners in past elections.
Past presidential candidates have always made frantic efforts to “harvest” votes from the region, and in most of those instances managed to win some.
To political pundits, this is an indication of a democracy in play where a region is not necessarily obligated to vote for a particular candidate due to tribal affiliation, and to politicians it is an idea battleground where anyone can get votes.
In 2007 General Election for instance, Raila Odinga got 639,246 votes ahead of Mwai Kibaki who garnered 312,300 while Kalonzo Musyoka got 6,729 votes.
In the 2013 elections, CORD leader Raila Odinga got 755,525 votes beating the region’s ‘very own’ Musalia Mudavadi who garnered 353,864 while Uhuru Kenyatta got 66,185 votes.
It is for this reason that Western region has received more “returning” visitors than other regions, with Deputy President William Ruto and CORD leader Raila Odinga topping the list.
In Ruto’s latest trip to Kakamega, he wooed Western legislators to join the government saying CORD has “nothing new to offer”.
A counter trip was made by Raila Odinga days later with the ODM party leader rubbishing Jubilee’s overtures, accusing Ruto of “using fraudulently acquired money to bribe Western leaders”.
In June 2015, President Kenyatta made one of his most significant visits to Western Kenya where he launched the resuscitation programme of the collapsed Mumias Sugar Company, days after hosting a number of MPs from the region at State House in Nairobi.
Even at such a high key and monumental event, CORD-affiliate Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale was in hand to highlight the fact that the region is “CORDED” and will not jump ship to Jubilee.
During his most recent visit President Kenyatta made stops at Chwele and Sirisia in Bungoma County, the backyard of CORD luminary Moses Wetangula, to assure the residents of government’s support.
The Head of State said plans are underway to set up development projects including the tarmacking of the Chwele-Lwakhakha road to ease movement of goods to Uganda and Sudan and electrification of the area.
The recent nomination of Eugene Wamalwa, who hails from Trans Nzoia County, into the Water Ministry, has been interpreted by political pundits as a plot by the government to penetrate the heavily insulated CORD region and sustain their relevance in the region.
Since his appointment into Cabinet, Wamalwa has not hid his intentions to hunt for votes for Jubilee ahead of the next elections, despite the Constitution restraining public servants from making political statements or expressing affiliation to one side of the political divide.
In one of his addresses last month, Wamalwa urged leaders from the larger Luhya community to quit their presidential ambitions and join Jubilee saying their time will come.
His utterances elicited sharp criticism from political leaders in the region including Lugari MP Ayub Savula who urged leaders from the region to go for the top job.
Ruto, in his latest address besieged legislators from the region to jump ship and join the “winning side” saying there is no way CORD can beat Jubilee in 2017 having failed to do so in 2013 when their luminaries were in government.
“In 2013, CORD leaders were in government and yet they could not defeat Jubilee, do you think it is possible for them to beat us now when we are in government?” posed the deputy president.
According to political analyst Professor Edward Kisiang’ani, Jubilee’s plan is to divide the region and consolidate votes from Central and Rift Valley, a plan that, if successful, will deal a blow to CORD.
“What Jubilee is trying to do is to divide CORD regions and consolidate their votes. They already have several voting blocks in their bucket and they are stretching their hands now to CORD areas,” he said.
According to CORD co-principal Moses Wetangula, Jubilee efforts are futile and will not taint CORD’s chances of ascending to power.
“Whatever Jubilee got in the last election, I can assure you they will get even less in the next elections.”
“They have been making frequent visits to the area bribing legislators to join their team but their plan will backfire on them.”
Though only 1.2 million out of the 1.4 million registered voters in Western cast their votes in the 2013 elections, it is imperative to note that the possibility of both CORD and Jubilee gaining ground in the region and dividing the votes have been a luring factor for both parties.
In 2013, Western was ranked sixth in vote-abundance behind Rift Valley (3 million votes), Central (2 million) and Eastern (1.8 million) and Nairobi (1.4 million), Nyanza (1.7 million).
This shows that the region does not particularly boast of voting-enthusiasts but the possibility for Jubilee to get numbers has been enticing.
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