Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Sunday, 19 Feb 2017 15:41 EATckaranja@kenyafreepress.com
Muruanga governor Mwangi wa Iria and his main opponent, two-term Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, are locked in a tight battle that has whittled the popularity of a third candidate many here see as carrying the best hope of the county. The campaign between the two has polarised the region and many voters now are preparing to vote 'against' either of the two rather than choosing the right governor for Muranga.
As the August general elections approach quickly, Mr Kamau who is also the National Assembly's Energy Committee chairman, says he has done everything that he was supposed to do for his constituents in the two terms he has represented them in Parliament, and that it is now time to do the same for Muranga County. Mr Kamau never shies to hide his disdain for Mr Wa Iria, whose administration he described as "failed".
The MP has got a lot of support mostly from his colleagues such as Maragwa MP Kamanda Mbuku and Kandara's Alice Nganga, who say that the county has been suffering from poor leadership and corruption and that it is time for change. Mr Wai Iria lost a great deal of popularity during his investigation by the anti-corruption authorities, but he has somehow managed to portray those as a political witch-hunt.
However, perceptions that his administration used funds imprudently have festered, and some critics point to the huge amount of money the county used in media adverts, which so far are the allegations of impropriety easiest to prove. Other allegations are that the county bought land at exaggerated prices and had attempted to convert Sh800 million from development to recurrent expenditure.
There is another group of older people complaining of how Mr Wa Iria is spending the county’s resources on youth projects that don’t come to fruition quickly. Some accuse him of not repairing key roads and an sms service from his office has created enmities in some quarters, with people seeing it as propaganda.
When Mr Kamau first declared his interest in the position last year, he was banking on a widespread perception in Central Kenya that governors were stealing public funds. However, on the ground, he has met a new reality, that Mr Wa Iria has not failed as was widely claimed.
Mr Kamau’s preying on the people’s discontent with governors has brought problems in his campaigns, where he has to use national government politics against Wa Iria. He has also found many development projects that the people hold dear, such as of dairy sector transformation that he had once opposed allegedly on the basis on the corruption.
The Wa Iria team has adopted a slogan 'No Wira Tu' which has emphasized the projects the governor has successfully completed, and among the older generation that had not seen services for years the governor’s re-election bid has earned accolades.
The race between the two is extremely polarized, according to political analyst Ndungu Gachane, meaning that the third candidate Dr Moses Ndungu Mwangi, who many see as carrying the best hopes of Muranga, will never get a competitive edge. The role of Jubilee Party, which will be locked in a fierce contest nationally against Raila Odinga's CORD or NASA alliances, is also weighing on the voters' minds.
With politics polarized between the two, supporters of Dr Mwangi have advised him to defect from Jubilee Party and choose a friendly party supporting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election. This way, he will save himself from an inevitable loss and present himself as the sober alternative to the eventual Jubilee Party candidate, who shall caused much acrimony.
The challenge for such a strategy is that President Kenyatta will almost immediately disown his party and support the Jubilee Party winner with all his energy in order to get a parliamentary majority and representation across all levels of government. "No one can afford to defect from Jubilee now, be it for parliamentary races or governor's nominations," said David Karanja of Kangema.
Mr Wa Iria recently caused concerns in the county by publicly warning about the resurgence of Mungiki militia, and his increased campaign against the violent group has won him support among religious groups and educationists. The governor has alleged that his opponent is using suspected Mungiki adherents, raising alarm in some areas.