Why 2021 will shape Raila’s political future - Beaking Kenya News

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Friday, 1 January 2021

Why 2021 will shape Raila’s political future


A constitutional referendum, a push to fire electoral agency bosses and barely time to put his house in order for 2022 are some of the issues ODM leader Raila Odinga will have to deal with in 2021.  

With a string of losses in by-elections signalling his party’s waning popularity, 2021 will be the defining year for Raila to gather momentum into the 2022 General Elections.  

Beaten in Msambweni by-elections, Raila will most likely go flat out in Matungu and Kabuchai by-elections to redeem himself and stop the hustler movement from inheriting what have been his traditional strongholds.

 Already ODM has withdrawn from the Nairobi by-elections where the ODM leader was expected to demonstrate that he still holds the key to the city politics.

Raila has not declared he will run for president in 2022 but his handlers are adamant his name will be the first on the presidential ballot.

Having lost the last three elections and bounced back, Raila hopes to ride on the success of the Building Bridges Initiative to bolster his 2022 presidential bid.  

In both 2007 and 2017, the ODM leader took a giant step to work with the government but it is his handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta that may benefit him more.

Political analyst Daniel Orogo said Raila’s future will be shaped more by the outcome of the 2021 referendum.

“It is a do or die for Raila. Depending on the outcome, he will march out as a kingpin with velvet gloves or retire to his political oblivion,” Orogo said.

“In fact, it is Raila’s elder brother Oburu Odinga who opened the lid on Raila’s chances of riding on the handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta to ascend to the highest office in the land.”

Orogo said the current constitutional discourse has given Raila a lifeline for his political career.

“As it happened in 2005 and 2010, he is the biggest beneficiary of a contested referendum.”

On August 3, Oburu said during an event in Siaya that Raila has the backing of the system for his 2022 bid.

“Why have we not gone to State House when we have won the presidency before? It’s because there is something we have been missing. That thing is called system. And now we are with Uhuru Kenyatta who is holding the system,” Oburu said.

But Raila distanced himself from Oburu’s remarks, terming them as personal opinions that had nothing to do with him.

Still, Uhuru’s foot soldiers have amplified Oburu's remarks and endorsed Raila’s presidency.

Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe and nominated MP Maina Kamanda are some of the close allies of Uhuru touting Raila as heir apparent.

In August, Murathe said Kenyans should gear up for a Raila presidency.

“We think it’s time Kenyans rewarded the years of struggle of Raila Amollo Odinga. They owe it to him. It’s like Mandela, and 2022 will be a Mandela moment. And we would also like to tell him (Raila) to be a transitional president who will then nurture the young generation to take over in 2027,” Murathe said.

Political analyst Danstan Omari agrees that the law change process will cement Raila in the people's imagination.  

“Baba is likely to remain relevant by putting his name on the ballot. Should William win, they will negotiate. Should Baba win, William Samoei Ruto will position himself or even swear himself as the people’s president. He will be the Baba of that season,” Omari said.

Orogo warns, however, that should Kenyans reject the referendum, selling Raila will be a gigantic task. 

Consequently, Raila might find it difficult to convince Kenyans to consider his candidature after losing the plebiscite months to elections.

“If Kenyans overwhelmingly vote ‘No’ to the amendments, Raila will be lumped together with the failed Jubilee government agenda. He will share the blame and the mistrust of Jubilee's misdoings,” Orogo said.

“Additionally, his political comeback might be an uphill task since the narrative of hustlers versus dynasty will have been deeply entrenched and confirmed in the voting on the Constitution Amendment Bill.”

The referendum is likely to be held in June, should the electoral agency clear the process to go to the counties by early next year.

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