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Published:October 12th, 2007 12:53 EST

Kenyan Politics 101

By Mark Thiong'o

Since the 2002 general elections, the Kenyan political front has gone through what many believe to be a metamorphosis.  Enter coalition politics. Never again would a single political party rule the country. Now fast forward to 2007. Just in time for the much awaited general election.

Many have baptized this as the mother of all political show downs. A 3-horse race between the defending champion President Mwai Kibaki, Hon. Raila Odinga and Hon. Steven Kalonzo Musyoka. But where is the catch? President Kibaki has since ditched the party that propelled him into power, NARC, and has surrounded himself with a new coalition of parties, dubbed the PNU. Both Hon. Raila Odinga and Steven Kalonzo Musyoka, former NARC members, have also formed their own parties ODM and ODM Kenya, respectively.

So why is this scenario interesting? All three candidates at one time belonged to the same political outfit. Separated by conflicts of interest and suspicion within their ranks, they have chosen to go it alone come voting day.

President Kibaki has since lost 2 influential cabinet ministers to Hon. Odinga’s ODM party, namely, Minister of Health Hon. Charity Ngilu and East African Co-operation minister John Koech, who both believe that the president has lost touch with the electorate. Charity Ngilu’s exit from the President’s fold has come as a much needed blessing for ODM, who seem to be moving from strength with near fanatical support from all parts of the country. Charity Ngilu brings with her a large chunk of votes from the Eastern province and the all elusive women’s vote. Times couldn’t be better for Hon. Odinga.

Kalonzo Musyoka, on the other hand, continues his uphill battle to remain politically significant. After parting ways with the Odinga led ODM party, his popularity has waned. However, many believe that he holds the key that could see either President Kibaki or Hon. Odinga occupy State House. The new ‘King Maker’ as the media has baptized him, Kalonzo holds a percentage of the national vote that, if secured by either of his competitors, would finalize the race. However, Kalonzo maintains that he is his own man, and has planned a lavish election campaign launch, on 14th October 2007.

All this hasn’t gone unnoticed by the public, with recent polls released on 12th October 2007 by the Steadman group,  putting Hon. Raila Odinga ahead with 53% followed by President Kibaki with 37% and Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka with 8% . Odinga has raked in an extra 6 points in a 2-week period, while President Kibaki, even after officially launching his re-election campaign, has only gone up by one. Kalonzo Musyoka’s numbers remain unchanged.