Deputy President William Ruto and his political arch-rival Raila Odinga have 10 days to name their running mates ahead of the August 9 presidential contest, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has revealed.
The two are touted as front runners in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta who has less than four months in office.
Even as the leaders traverse the country to sell their presidential bids, the running mate position has remained a headache for both.
Pundits say whoever each of the presidential hopefuls settles on, could make or break their presidential ambitions.
With this in mind, the leaders have been holding their cards close to their chests even as it becomes clear by the day that whoever picks a running mate from the vote-rich Mount Kenya region, where Uhuru hails from, has a better chance of forming the next government.
But the recent declaration by IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati could hasten the naming process as each of the political camps aims to not only beat the deadline but settle on the best running mate in terms of mobilization power and influence.
Chebukati, in an interview with The Star, said the commission expects presidential candidates to name their deputies by April 28, which is 10 days away.
“We expect to know their running mates on the date when they submit names of the nominated candidates…either themselves as independent candidates or through the party, if a political party candidate, this being April 28,” Chebukati said.
There are fears that the deadline could trigger acrimonious fallings out in Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza coalition and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya led by Odinga.
Already, there is tension in Azimio as Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka maintains that Odinga should pick him as his running mate in the August polls. The Wiper boss hails from the Eastern region, hence complicating the matrix for the former Prime Minister, who has the backing of President Kenyatta in his State House bid.
There are speculations that Odinga is keen to pick a running mate from Mt Kenya. Some of the politicians seen as Odinga’s potential running mates from the region include Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui.
On the other hand, Ruto is under pressure to pick Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi as his running mate. Mudavadi joined forces with Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party to form the Kenya Kwanza coalition in January this year. Mudavadi hails from the deeply divided western region voting block.
Some of Ruto’s loyal allies from MT Kenya also insist that Ruto should consider the region that has no notable representation in the top seat in the August polls.
“One of the things we had discussed with him is that whatever we had agreed earlier cannot change drastically to the disadvantage of the Mt Kenya People because the new friends have come,” Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said in a recent interview on KTN News.
“What I am saying, in short, is that the Mt Kenya region should get the running mate slot.”
On the issue of the deadline, Odinga’s top political advisors sharply differ with IEBC. The leaders say Azimio has until June to name the ODM leader’s deputy.
“It doesn’t mean we are going to wait until the deadline but we will work with the timelines [in the law],” Professor Makau Mutua, spokesperson of Raila’s campaign team and head of his think tank said.
Ruto’s stalwarts, however, say they are ready to unveil Ruto’s running mate.
“We have 11 days up to April 28 at 5 o’clock by close of business. A day in politics is like a year and 1,000 years in politics is like one day. We are content with the date,” said Johnson Muthama, the UDA party chairman.
“We are fully prepared for that and we will give it to Kenyans at the right time. We are not late. We are not squabbling about it like those on the other side. You can see how quiet we are and know we are set.”