Ruto hopes he will face Kalonzo in the 2027 race
Kenya’sPresident William Ruto is anticipating a battle with former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka as his main rival in the 2027 election in the likely event that opposition leader Raila Odinga doesn’t vie.
Ruto, who has been accused by the opposition of engaging in early campaigns, publicly mentioned Musyoka’s name as a possible challenger last week while addressing a meeting in Homa Bay County.
The meeting was one of several addressed by the president during a four-day whistle-stop trip to four counties in the Nyanza region, officially dubbed a development tour but dominated by political rhetoric regarding the next elections.
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His early campaign pitch is seen as part of a strategy to widen his support base and exorcise the ghosts of legitimacy that have continued to haunt his presidency.
Homa Bay, Kisumu, Siaya and Migori counties are considered the bedrock of opposition politics and have largely voted for Odinga in each of his past five unsuccessful presidential bids.
The veteran opposition leader has yet to publicly rule out a sixth stab at the presidency. But with his age advancing — he will be 82 in 2027 — there has been mounting speculation about his participation in the next elections.
Some close allies of the president, miffed by Odinga’s following and ability to mobilise the recent anti-government protests, have not concealed their wish to see the back of him.
In March, six MPs threatened to petition the Treasury to withhold Odinga’s retirement benefits if he continued to participate in politics.
Elements within the opposition are also pushing for a succession plan in which Odinga will step aside and back someone else to face Ruto.
In July, a senator and an MP elected on Musyoka’s Wiper Party challenged Odinga to publicly endorse Musyoka’s candidature in 2027, saying it was time to return the favour. Musyoka, 69, has backed Odinga’s past three presidential election bids, two of those as running mate. The Wiper Party leader contested the presidency in 2007, coming a credible third behind then president Mwai Kibaki and Odinga. He served as vice-president in the Kibaki administration between 2008 and 2013.
If the 2027 race narrows down to Dr Ruto and Musyoka, both will be calling on Odinga to play the kingmaker role in their favour, claiming political debt from past campaigns.
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In his speeches during the Nyanza tour, the president sought to appeal to the former prime minister’s supporters in the region to consider backing his re-election bid, repeatedly touting his role in the former’s presidential campaign in 2007 and Odinga serving as prime minister.
Although Odinga lost narrowly to Kibaki, he ended in the grand coalition government as prime minister following mediation of the ensuing post-election conflict led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Although a number of other leaders have been mentioned as potential successors in the opposition Azimio One Kenya Alliance, Musyoka’s allies see him as first among equals.