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By beating the ruling party in the Mount Kenya region, Deputy President Ruto has scored a palpable hit against the President
Deputy President William Ruto notched up another success in his bid to win next August's presidential election after his personal political vehicle, the United Democratic Alliance, won a parliamentary by–election in President Uhuru Kenyatta's back yard.
Official results published by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had UDA candidate John Njuguna Wanjiku defeating Jubilee's Kariri Njama by a narrow 21,773 votes to 21,263. A low turnout of 45%, after numerous reports of voter intimidation and bribery, points to an ugly battle for the presidency (AC Vol 62 No 14, Why the dynasties fear Ruto).
In a ward by–election in Muguga, in the same constituency, the Jubilee candidate also secured a narrow victory.
The result in Kiambaa, in Kenyatta's home county of Kiambu, was not unexpected. Jubilee candidate Njama had played down his chances of holding the seat. Even so, the turnaround in the UDA's fortunes, particularly in what should be the President's heartland, has been startling.
A few months ago, the UDA was widely derided as 'a letterbox party', lacking any organisational structure and funding, and was soundly beaten in a series of by–elections. Though the party still appears to be being bankrolled by Ruto personally, its field operation in Kiambaa was reported, including by Njama, to have been superior to Jubilee's.
Although Ruto has not formally left the Jubilee party that he founded with President Uhuru Kenyatta, a formal split appears to be only a matter of time although Ruto aides, following his meeting with Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni last week, indicated that they have not given up on Kenyatta endorsing Ruto (AC Dispatches 13/07/21, Deputy President Ruto courts Museveni's support).
Should Ruto succeed in switching large swathes of the Kikuyu vote in the Mount Kenya region he will be hard to defeat. After several years of warning his deputy to stop playing politics, Kenyatta and his allies will have to change their strategy if they are to present an alternative contender for the presidential elections next August.
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