Kenyan Opposition Chooses Odinga to Run Against Kenyatta

NAIROBI (Capital Markets in Africa) – An alliance of Kenyan opposition parties chose former Prime Minister Raila Odinga as its candidate to run against President Uhuru Kenyattain elections scheduled for August.

Odinga’s running mate on the National Super Alliance ticket will be former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, co-principal Musalia Mudavadi said Thursday at a rally in the capital, Nairobi. The two were recommended by a technical committee that also considered Mudavadi and Senator Moses Wetang’ula as potential candidates.

“The one who will fly the NASA flag is engineer, the Right Honorable Raila Odinga,” Mudavadi said to the cheers of thousands of supporters at a rally in Uhuru Park in the city center.

The alliance will have a five-member executive if it wins the election to accommodate all of its principal leaders, Mudavadi said. The position of prime minister will be held by Mudavadi, while two deputy-premier posts will be filled by Senator Moses Wetang’ula of the Ford-Kenya party and Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani, he said.

Odinga, 72, has lost three previous attempts to win the presidency. In 2013, Kenyatta beat him with 50.07 percent of the vote, and in 2007 Odinga lost to former President Mwai Kibaki. The opposition disputed the outcome of both of those votes, alleging rigging. Kibaki’s contested victory sparked two months of ethnic violence that left at least 1,100 people dead. Odinga came third in the 1997 election that was won by incumbent President Daniel arap Moi.

Read a backgrounder on the key personalities in Kenya’s presidential election

The International Monetary Fund has cut its 2017 growth forecast for Kenya’s $69.3-billion economy, the fourth-biggest in sub-Saharan Africa, to 5.3 percent from 6.1 percent, citing factors including potential political instability during the elections. The rate of expansion slumped to 1.7 percent in 2008 in the wake of the post-election violence, from 7.1 percent the year before.

Odinga is the strongest candidate the opposition has to challenge Kenyatta at the polls, said Ahmed Salim, Dubai-based vice president of Teneo Strategy.

“There is no one else that can rile Kenyatta the way he does,” he said by phone. “He knows how to play politics, everything he does seems to unnerve the presidency.”

Still, the fact that Odinga has suffered three elections losses may result in “Raila fatigue” among voters, undermining his reputation as a “viable challenger and ability to mobilize undecided voters,” Emma Gordon, an analyst at Bath, England-based Verisk Maplecroft, said in an emailed response to questions.

Kenyatta, 55, is seeking a second five-year term at the election scheduled for Aug. 8.


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