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Election pact hailed by insiders as return to Grand Coalition Government but sceptics abound
For loyalists of Raila Odinga, his electoral negotiations with President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Jubilee party are the logical conclusion of their celebrated handshake deal which ended hostilities after the contested results of the 2017 election.
Both Jubilee and some leading lights in Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) are talking up the prospects of an accord in which they would agree a joint candidate for the presidency and nominate individuals for key posts in a new government after next year's elections. Its advocates call it a return to the Grand Coalition Government in 2008 when Mwai Kibaki was President and Odinga Prime Minister.
But there are several important differences. The Grand Coalition was a big tent for the political class after the deadly clashes in the previous year's elections. Alongside the two principals, it brought in Kalonzo Musyoka (Vice-President and Home Affairs), Musalia Mudavadi (Deputy Prime Minister and Trade), Moses Wetangula (Foreign Affairs) and William Ruto (Agriculture).
This time the project is more about Kenyatta and Odinga trying to put up a united front against Deputy President Ruto's increasingly aggressive campaign for the presidency (AC Vol 62 No 11, Picking up the pieces).
Odinga's and ODM's position is complicated by their being in another coalition, the National Super Alliance (Nasa) which includes Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetangula. None of these leaders appeared to have been consulted by Odinga before he opened negotiations with Jubilee.
A critical consideration for the planned coalition would be its presidential candidate. All three – Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetangula – have refused to back an Odinga campaign for the presidency (AC Vol 62 No 6, Raila's weak grip).
For Jubilee and ODM, the danger is that their proposed electoral alliance further divides the electoral field. By some calculations the main beneficiary of all this would be Ruto who has been courting voters in Central and Nairobi provinces, two of the country's most populous regions and, until now, Kenyatta's political heartlands.
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