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Raila Odinga fights for relevance

NEWS AND ANALYSIS

Raila Odinga fights for relevance

Raila Odinga, the former Kenyan prime minister has sent mixed signals about his intention to be in the Kenyan presidential race of 2018. Attempting to untangle the puzzle.

In the last three months the future of Raila Odinga in Kenya’s politics has been a torment to his supporters. One faction of his core support base sought to have the senior Kenyan politician retire from politics. This viewpoint had its basis in age (he is now 68) and the fact that since he had lost three presidential elections, it was only reasonable that he retire honourably to avoid another electoral defeat.

The second bloc has refused to entertain this notion and holds that Raila’s political aura is still needed in active politics. It is this second group that has prevailed and the reason Raila declared that he was not retiring from politics, in mid-July saying that it is his supporters who will decide whether he will be on the ballot papers come 2018.

His running mate and partner in the Coalition for Democracy and Reforms (CORD), Kalonzo Musyoka, has also dismissed any talk of retirement, indicating that he is still in politics for the long haul.

And this is what has made Kenyan politics so fascinating. With Odinga and
Kalonzo firmly declaring their intentions, it is clear the permanent electioneering mode that has bewitched Kenya, for the last 10 years, is likely to persist.

Even though this time around Raila is trailing President Uhuru Kenyatta in the opinion poll ratings, the former is busy reconstituting a new team. His new team will be seeking to change his image and at the same time fix the myriad blunders that have seen him become a perennial loser.

So what are the chances that Raila will win on his fourth attempt? This is the question that Raila’s team must confront, knowing the odds are probably in favour of the incumbent.

Secondly, they must look for weaknesses in the Jubilee administration to exploit. However, so far all the indications highlight a leadership vacuum in CORD, and multiple judgement errors. This is courtesy of the 2010 Kenya constitution that bars anyone seeking to be president or his deputy from being a Member of Parliament (MP). The same applies for cabinet secretaries (previously ministers). Under the past constitution the entire political executive were members of parliament. This caveat has denied both Odinga and Musyoka the necessary political cushioning to provide leadership for their coalition from Kenya’s senate and national assembly. As such they are leading “from outside”.

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