Kenya’s two leading contenders for the presidency during the general elections, slated for August 9, have named their running mates, as they brace themselves for a hotly contested race.
Deputy President William Ruto who is vying for presidency under the Kenya Kwanza coalition was the first to name his running mate, Rigathi Gachagua, a lawmaker from the central county of Nyeri, after intense horse-trading, reports Xinhua news agency.
It took about 17 hours for Ruto and his allies in the Kenya Kwanza coalition to agree on 57-year-old Gachagua as his running mate, amid reports of intense lobbying and compromises.
While unveiling Gachagua, a political science and literature major with three decades’ experience in the public service, Ruto said the duo shared a similar ideology of transforming the country’s economy to benefit all citizens.
“One of the key roles of my deputy will be to coordinate economic reform programs that my administration intends to undertake to ensure benefits trickle to all citizens,” said Ruto.
His choice of Gachagua as his deputy had experienced some bumps throughout Saturday, after intense lobbying for another candidate by lawmakers from the central Kenya region.
The rival candidate Kithure Kindiki, a law scholar and senator from the upper eastern county of Tharaka Nithi had the support of the majority of lawmakers from the vote-rich central Kenya region who felt he was more suited for the deputy president job due to his illustrious resume and personable mien.
Local media reported that Ruto had to get personally involved to break the impasse over his deputy’s choice which could precipitate a fall-out, dimming his chances of clinching the presidency.
Soon after Ruto unveiled his running mate amid pomp and celebrations in his strongholds, his rival in the presidential race, Raila Odinga, former prime minister, promised to announce his choice on Monday.
The 77-year-old veteran of Kenya’s opposition politics had engaged a panel of eminent persons to recommend to him three outstanding names out of a list of eleven contenders who underwent grilling to prove their qualifications for the job.
Odinga on Monday named Martha Karua, a 64-year-old Former Minister who occupied water, justice and constitutional affairs dockets during the late President Mwai Kibaki’s rule between 2003 to 2009.
Hailed as a rights defender, principled and focused leader, Karua’s selection as a running mate for Odinga is expected to energise female voters while adding sparkle to the tight race for the presidency in the country.
In addition, Karua could also marshal significant votes for Odinga in her native central Kenyan region, a strategic voting bloc that could determine the outcome of the August presidential election.
Odinga said Karua was an ideal choice for a running mate, citing her illustrious career as a magistrate, rights defender and a champion for good governance for a period spanning nearly four decades.
“History is calling us to produce our first female deputy president,” Odinga told exuberant supporters gathered in downtown Nairobi.
Running under the Azimio La Umoja (resolution for unity) coalition of more than 20 political parties, Odinga will be making his fifth stab at the presidency during the forthcoming polls.
Both Ruto and Odinga managed to beat the May 16 deadline for submitting the names of their running mates as ordered by the country’s election supervising body.
The two leading contenders for the coveted post are running sleek campaigns primarily focusing on economic reforms, support for local startups, and empowerment of women and youth.
According to local pollsters, the two presidential candidates are almost tied as they intensify vote hunting in their strongholds and battlegrounds including the capital Nairobi.