Guest post By John Maina
Many have banked and presumed that the incumbent will get all the votes in the voters rich Gema region and that Raila chances of gaining any significant votes are miniature. The assumptions is that unlike past elections, this time around their will be an almost 90% turn out in this region and these votes are securely bagged by the incumbent translating into a walk over. Their has even been talks that the Gema region gives the incumbent unassailable edge against Raila as the electorate will turn up in their masses to solidify and protect the presidency leaving the region.
Albeit tribal and retrogressive to blow ones own horn over such a strategy, I believe it is a myth and may turn out to be the last straw that broke the camels back for the incumbent, as it is likely to backfire and disappoint. The failure of this strategy will eclipse all other stillborn PNU strategies such as the dishing out of districts, fake Muslim MOU, Raila’s unelectability, unconvincing economy growth etcetera.
Tellingly, there are some latent indicators that the above strategy is not working and is doomed to fail with only a few days to the election.
Firstly, the incumbent campaign and rallies in his stronghold i.e. Gema region have failed to attract big crowds yet you would expect his supporters to be out in masses to show their solidarity particularly with the threat of the presidency likely to leave their region. The crowds present in these rallies cannot be compared anywhere near to the mammoth rallies recently addressed by Raila in Kisumu and Homa bay his stronghold and some parts of the rift valley.
However, some may argue that Raila has applied similar strategy, which might also backfire on him. But this view is contradicted by his popularity in the region as the crowds in these rallies testify. Another fallacy argument is that crowds do not equate to votes or turnout but as the 2002 elections and referendum crowds indicated many are in for a shock. This has clearly been confirmed by both the genuine and sham opinion polls published in the past few months continuously highlighting Raila’s popularity. Arguments that idealness, noisemaking ‘domo’ and hooliganism in Raila’s stronghold lead to high turnout in rallies should be ignored for they are just myopic and tribal.
Secondly, Just like in the past, voter’s apathy within Gema region is still predominant. Despite high voters registration this does not collate into high turn out and is unlikely to be any different this time round. This is mainly due to voter’s disenfranchisement caused by arrogance and assumptions by those in power that majority of the electorate in the region have benefited from the so-called economical growth. Many may refuse to vote or vote for someone else as a protest.
Thirdly, some of the youths in this region who consist of a large number are also unlikely to vote for PNU and the incumbent as they are seen to represent old men, the status quo and the bourgeois of Kenyan society, which many abhor and blame for the socioeconomic plunder. Importantly, the youths do not cling onto the outdated and disempowering post colonial mentality of tribalism, tribal supremacy and allegiance
Fourthly, still afresh in the minds the electorates, is the brutal experience on the hands of Mungiki and state security war. Such experiences do not win votes but further alienate innocent people to the disadvantage of the incumbent.
Significantly, who has not witnessed the ongoing and embarrassing infighting amongst PNU affiliates and their members? The bickering has been played out in the presence of the incumbent and mainly in the Gema region. Such actions have resulted in disorganized and unpredictable campaigns and rallies. This is a put off to some voters, which may keep there away for fear of violence during the Election Day or even vote for somebody else.
Kalonzo’s factor and the recent slapping of a second individual by the incumbent wife further jolts the assumption that it will be a walk over for the incumbent in the Gema region. The former is seen as a compromise candidate and level headed. For those that cannot stand the incumbent or mention of Raila may cast their lot with Kalonzo.
It is also worth noting that intermarriages between the Gema community and others will also play a part in the former voting for another candidate rather than the incumbent.
Lastly, the fear of isolation from the rest of Kenya by some within Gema might persuade them to vote otherwise or not even go to vote. The referendum experience is still fresh in many people minds some who have seen little for supporting the incumbent during that period.
Thus, it is only fair to say that its unlikely that the expected high voters turn out in the Gema region will come to pass and if it does, it will not entirely be to the advantage of the incumbent over his main rival Raila. It is also true that the Gema vote is a lot more fluid this time round than ever.
The writer is a member of Kenya Capital Investment Group and can be reached at; www.mjengakenya.blogspot.com