Opposition defection rocks Kenya ahead of polls

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-10 19:55:51|Editor: liuxin
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NAIROBI, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- A wave of defections have hit Kenya's political landscape with many opposition politicians who lost in the Aug. 8 elections joining the ruling Jubilee Party.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, while on campaign tours ahead of the Oct. 26 repeat elections, has over the last week received over five senior opposition politicians, who have pledged to support him.

The defections have been seen as move by Kenyatta and his Jubilee Party to cannibalize the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) led by Raila Odinga ahead of the polls, thus denying him crucial support in his strongholds.

All those who have defected in the last weeks ran for the governor's post in the opposition strongholds and came in second or third.

The politicians cried foul following their losses in the Aug. 8 polls and some bitterly blamed party leader Odinga for supporting their opponents.

Some of those who have defected were Odinga's key allies and have supported him for years as he sought to clinch the presidency.

"I welcome you and your supporters in my team, bring your problems to us and let us work together to solve them and see how we can help our people," Kenyatta said on Monday at the Kenyan Coast as he received Hassan Omar and John Mruttu, both of whom vied for the Mombasa and Taita Taveta governor seats and lost.

Besides at the Coast, other governor contestants who have ditched the opposition to join Jubilee are from Kajiado, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Busia in western Kenya and Bomet in the Rift Valley, among other leaders, mainly MP aspirants.

The politicians accused NASA leader Odinga of sidelining them before and after the polls even after they massively campaigned for him.

"After losing election, no NASA leader called me to check up on me or even to encourage me... But on Aug. 11, the Deputy President called me. He encouraged me to take positives from the loss. He made me think about who my true friends were and I was persuaded to join Jubilee," said Omar.

NASA leaders have, however, dismissed the defectors and termed them as "rent-seekers" who have been bought off by Jubilee.

On Monday, Odinga claimed that Kenyatta's party had set up a defectors' fund to finance the buying of leaders and losers to create an impression of a mass exodus from NASA.

"We are aware that Jubilee has set up a fund to finance the buying of leaders with money stolen from the public and it is the reason the economy has stagnated and nearly all workers are on strike," said Odinga.

The defections have come as a surprise to opposition supporters while their Jubilee counterparts celebrated the loss of "key backers" of Odinga.

"NASA has no chance at the Coast. Omar Hassan's defection has dented the team in the region that it would take great effort for Odinga to regain support," said Jubilee senator Irungu Kangata.

Opposition Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr noted that Omar's defection baffled many of his supporters who stood by him in his quest for justice as a human rights' defender.

"The defection has surprised many who believed in his quest for justice and social rights which he has fought for, for many years. Historians will have a lot to say," said the senator, acknowledging that the defection had affected NASA support in the region.

Opiyo Wandayi, an MP and Odinga supporter, however, noted that even with the defections, NASA would not turn back on its demands for credible polls.

"There is no turning back. Elections are only elections if they're credible. With or without Jubilee's special defection fund."

Some ordinary NASA supporters are, however, worried about the defection of the leaders, noting that Odinga is doing little to keep his allies.

"I don't like the notion people are creating that Omar was just bought to leave NASA. There are fundamental leadership issues underlying which NASA should solve," said NASA blogger and supporter Ken Oguok.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer and political analyst in Nairobi, observed that defections are entrenched in the Kenyan politics as political parties stand for no ideology but are just vehicles to gain power.

"Defections were perfected during the Moi era and slowed down during Kibaki's time but it is certain they are back during Kenyatta's reign as politicians seek to satisfy their interests and shake off the 'coldness' in the opposition."