The great Irish novelist and wordsmith George Orwell could have written in contemporary Kenya that if the word cord refers to a rope or string made of twisted threads, the word cord can also mean tying something with a rope. By extension to untie something could also be referred to as uncord.
Thus there should be something as uncord in Orwellian-speak the masterly of which is a prerequisite for a practical understanding of Raila Odinga’s Coalition of Reforms and Democracy (CORD).
As the curtains close on the presidential election campaigns, it is obvious that Raila Odinga will not emerge tops despite consistently leading in opinion polls. No wonder CORD is investing massively to prevent the Jubilee Alliance from winning the first round of the presidential election.
In my view, the unpredictability of the Luhya and Kamba votes counsels caution in evaluating RAO’s chances on Monday. This article however argues that even if CORD succeeds in pushing the presidential contest into a run-off, that may not be enough to assure it of victory. There are two reasons for saying so.
I. THE TYRANNY OF NUMBERS THESIS
The persuasiveness of Mutahi Ngunyi’s Tyranny of Numbers thesis on the relationship between voters registration and the likely outcomes of the presidential contest between CORD and Jubilee political coalitions derives not so much from its compelling case but more from the timid, subjective and surreal responses of his critics.
A perfect example of such responses is lawyer Wachira Maina’s paper entitled “Kenyans Don’t Always Vote Tribally”. The central pillars of former President Moi’s political supremacy were founded on patrimonial state and Anti-Kikuyu ideology which had considerable traction among political elites across the country. In many ways ODM’s 2007 presidential campaign was a bold attempt to reverse history and return the Moi state.
To my mind, the fact that Raila’s opinion poll rating rose from 13.5 percent in December, 2006 to 47 percent in December, 2007 reaffirms my contention rather than constitute proof of his enduring support outside his ethnic political base. Interestingly, the desperation with which the CORD alliance was cobbled-up in a deal that is heavily skewed in favour of Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula is all the proof one requires.
Thus in the absence of the run-away anti-Kikuyuism in this election which arose after the 2005 referendum, it is not easy to understand how Raila’s political castle can withstand the demolition of the ethnic pillars known as the summit of 2007. Considering all this, I believe that opinion polls have clearly seen misrepresenting the political reality hence Raila’s outburst against Ngunyi’s thesis. Is there a good reason why opinion polls would be rigged? Absolutely, I dare say!
Wachira Maina’s argument on incumbency partly explains why. Elections favour incumbents precisely because voters are basically conservative creatures and history shows it is easier to retain rather than get power. Therefore, if you are a neutral voter or member of third party communities or AGIP (Any Government in Power) communities, it is better to place your bets with the incumbent rather than the challenger.
Similarly, voters from Third Party and AGIP communities are wont to place their bets with the most probable winner as opposed to “good” or preferred candidate who may not win the game.
It follows therefore that in a game where only those who might get gold matters, it matters also that the voter should view you as the likely winner. Thus in becoming King of Opinion Polls, RAO brings the illusion of real king in the minds of the voters. This can only be beneficial for, like with equity, the one who looks and acts like the king, always becomes the king Not surprisingly then, the moment the Tyranny of Numbers thesis came out the comfort in opinion poll ratings went south hence Raila’s outbursts.
II. THE KALONZO MUSYOKA FACTOR
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka was coerced by his erstwhile political allies to join CORD in pursuit of the Luo-Akamba political alliance. With Kalonzo safe in the castle, CORD supporters contend that over 80 percent of the valid votes of the Kamba will go to Raila. Interestingly this logic fails when it come to the Kalenjins who – it is alleged – may not be psychologically “ready” to vote for another Kikuyu president. Where does the truth lie.
Anecdotal evidence so far is more than revealing. Two things in particular. First Kalonzo does not seem comfortable or sound confident about his new politics in CORD. To make this worse three days to the elections it was revealed that Kalonzo tops his party’s list of nominees to the National Assembly. To my mind, there could be no worse way to cast a vote of “No Confidence” against CORD’s prospect to win the presidency!
The second element is more interesting. If the presidential election goes to the run-off Kalonzo will have to be gazetted and sworn in as an MP before the run-off date. In the event that he does so then he will be automatically disqualified from the run-off.
Something else, If Kalonzo agrees to be sworn as MP he will effectively open himself to offers for leader of majority in the National Assembly from Jubilee. Such an offer will certainly be very tempting for Kalonzo given that it is Johnson Muthama and Mutula Kilonzo who are closer allies of Raila. Where such an eventuality will leave Raila’s presidential bid, talk to your lawyer!
*The writer is a constitutional law practitioner based in Nairobi (firstname.lastname@example.org)