Kenya: Kalonzo under pressure to seek Raila’s early endorsement ahead of 2027 polls

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Thursday, 5 January 2023 12:43

Kalonzo Musyoka, Chief Minister in the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la umoja political coalition gives an address to elected gubernatorial, national and county legislators at Azimio's Elected Leaders Inaugural Conference in Nairobi on August 13, 2022. (Photo by Tony KARUMBA / AFP)

Kenya's Kalonzo Musyoka of the Wiper Democratic Party, is one of the top contenders for the top seat in the opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition. He is under increasing political pressure from his close allies to demand an early endorsement from the coalition's leader Raila Odinga to succeed him as the One Kenya flag bearer in 2027. 

Kalonzo’s allies are calling for him to take over the coalition leadership from Raila, whom he twice deputised during the 2013 and 2017 presidential bids.

Among the allies are Makueni Senator Daniel Kitonga Maanzo and his Kitui counterpart Wambua Enoch Kiio, who believe that Raila – whose presidential bid has failed five times – has little chance in the next polls and should therefore appoint Kalonzo, early on, as his successor.

“It’s only fair that the coalition chooses Musyoka to face President William Ruto in 2027,” Maanzo says.

Maanzo says Raila should use his ability of pulling together the opposition parties in the Azimio la Umoja coalition to return the favour to Kalonzo, who supported him in his three presidential attempts, including the 2022 poll.

“It is time now for [Raila] Odinga to also stand with us, we have supported him three times,” he says.

On numerous occasions, in public rallies, Kalonzo has told supporters that he is the man to beat in 2027. He has indicated his intention to inherit Raila’s political strongholds – Western, Nairobi and Coastal regions – to battle it out against Ruto.

“This time round, there is nothing to stop me from becoming the President of Kenya. Ruto is the only obstacle and he knows it,” Kalonzo told supporters in one of his rallies last November.

Kalonzo, who has been in the political scene for more than 30 years now, served as vice president between 2008-2013. He launched a bid at the presidency in 2007, but finished third.

Raila not giving up… yet

Even as pressure mounts on Kalonzo, Raila has already hinted that he is not planning to retire anytime soon from the political scene.

During a recent interview with Citizen TV Kenya, the former prime minister was categorical that he has not indicated he will not vie again in 2027.

“If I don’t run, someone else will, but I have not said I’m not going to run,” Raila said.

The leadership of the Jubilee Party – that of former President Uhuru Kenyatta, one of the parties that forms the Azimio coalition – has already indicated that Raila is their preferred presidential candidate in 2027.

Meanwhile, former Makueni governor Kivutha Kibwana – who supported Raila’s presidential bid last year and is a political opponent of Kalonzo – describes the latter as a politician who uses his title to satisfy his personal interests.

“He uses his position to largely lobby for himself, family and a few friends,” Kibwana said on Twitter.

Kibwana says if Kalonzo wants a real chance at leading the coalition and at being endorsed by Raila, he should start by assuming that the Azimio leader will not retire anytime soon.

He adds that if Kalonzo wants a real chance at running for the 2027 presidential polls, he should begin by withdrawing his Wiper party from the coalition. Doing so would mean he could run in the elections should Raila decide to have a sixth stab at it.  

Kevin Ochol, a Nairobi-based political analyst, says although Kalonzo has a chance to succeed, he needs to be more politically aggressive to seek support across the country especially in Raila’s political base.

“He [Kalonzo] should not just relax and expect an easy endorsement from Raila, he should demonstrate that he has a following across the country,” Ochol says.

Ochol also warns that the unity of the Azimio la Umoja Coalition is at risk if such political pressure is not carefully handled by the top leadership of the coalition, adding that it’s far too early to begin 2027 campaigning now. 

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