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September by-elections will gauge parties’ might

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 28 – The much anticipated September 17 by-elections in Kangema, Ndhiwa and Kajiado North constituencies promise to be a bruising battle for political parties as they seek to gauge their strength ahead of the 2013 general elections.

The Party of National Unity (PNU) and The National Alliance (TNA) led by Uhuru Kenyatta are set to rub shoulders over fielding of candidates for the Kangema and Kajiado North parliamentary seats left vacant by the deaths of ministers John Michuki and George Saitoti.

PNU insists that it will field its own candidates in the Kajiado North and Kangema by-elections.

PNU acting chairman Gideon Konchella said that the party will seek the support of other parties working within the G7 alliance insisting that the two (departed lawmakers) were originally elected as PNU MPs.

“At the moment, we are working in the framework of the G7 and we invite all other members to support us. PNU is the mother party with a national outlook and network and the rest are just off-shoots of PNU,” said the Kilgoris MP.

Konchella told Capital FM News that the party will meet aspirants next week as is seeks to nominate candidates who exhibit the highest levels of integrity.

The National Alliance led by Kenyatta which is in the G7 alliance, has through its chairman Johnson Sakaja said that it will field its own candidates in the by-elections.

Last weekend, Nairobi Metropolitan minister Jamleck Kamau said PNU should support the Kangema TNA candidate. He said the best way to honour Michuki, whom he termed as a ‘strong supporter of Kenyatta’, was to ensure that a TNA candidate succeeds him in Kangema.

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Former Environment minister John Michuki who had endorsed Kenyatta as the Central Kenya political kingpin died after a short illness in February while Saitoti and Ojode died in a police helicopter crash on June 10.

Both Michuki and Saitoti were key PNU MPs and strong allies of President Kibaki who is still the PNU leader despite the distance he has kept off party politics.

Other parties which attract strong following in Central Kenya seek to show some muscle are the Kenya National Congress led by Peter Kenneth, the Alliance Party of Kenya led by Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, the Grand National Union and Narc Kenya led by Gichugu MP Martha Karua.

Political analyst Martin Oloo from the University of Nairobi says that the battle in Kangema and Kajiado North will be an awakening to the new political realities that party allegiance has shifted.

He says that PNU’s claim on the seats is unjustified as it has lost popularity and that the party cannot perform well without Saitoti. He says that in Kajiado North, the contest will be between ODM and TNA.

“Politically speaking, PNU’s only man left standing was Saitoti. In central Kenya it will be about TNA and Uhuru against all the other parties. It’s their time to show that they have matured ahead of the elections. It is also a chance for Uhuru to show is he has a firm grip on Central Kenya,” he said.

Moses ole Sakuda who challenged the late Saitoti in 2007 on an ODM ticket has lately started to align himself with TNA.

The Orange Democratic Movement which has largely played second fiddle in other by-elections will also be out to measure the impact its leader has accumulated in areas where the party has been unpopular.

ODM is unlikely to be challenged in Ndhiwa by other parties and will only have the task of settling its test is in the nominations.

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“In its Nyanza backyard, the challenge has always been with nominations and once again the party is put to test to please all the members and contestants,” added Oloo.

Despite being an ODM MP the late Ojode largely kept silent on party affairs.


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