Azimio split looms as Kalonzo eyes Opposition seat

Written by on 4 January 2023

Azimio-One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga faces a fresh headache as his ally, Wiper chief Kalonzo Musyoka, steps up to be considered for the proposed seat of Leader of the Official Opposition.

Sources close to Kalonzo have told People Daily that the former Vice President is seeking to position himself as the opposition leader after Raila last month said he found the decision to create the position curious.

At the time, Raila criticised President William Ruto for proposing the creation of the office, saying Ruto had opposed the idea, which was one of the BBI proposals.

He described it as an affront to the Constitution. Sources yesterday said Kalonzo could make his intentions known as early as today when he is scheduled “to make a major announcement” at a press conference in Nairobi.

His allies told People Daily that he is likely to also outline his political plans as he embarks on positioning himself to run for the presidency in 2027.

The associates saud Raila has not demonstrated keen interest in the proposed position of Leader of the Official Opposition, which President Ruto has asked Parliament to create through a Bill originated by the Presidency.

“Expect a bombshell from Kalonzo. He wants to take up the role of the Official Opposition (leader),” said one source, who requested not to be identified because the matter was still under consideration.

Kalonzo’s decision, if he makes it today, will shake up Azimio, which is a coalition party in which ODM, Jubilee and Wiper are the leading partners. ODM is largest party in the coalition and has produced the Leader of Minority in the National Assembly, Opiyo Wandayi, and his Senate counterpart, Stewart Madzayo.

Kenya Kwanza MPs — with tacit support from their Wiper counterparts — are crafting a Bill that seeks to create the position of the Official Leader of the Opposition, and which is to be tabled before the National Assembly when the House resumes next month.

While addressing the Kenya Kwanza MPs during a two-day symposium at Windsor Hotel last year, President Ruto urged the
lawmakers to move with speed and pass the Bill.

“We need to accommodate the opposition, do not make things personal,” Ruto said in reference to the position.

However, in a rejoinder, Raila said he would reject the proposal, claiming it was being crafted to dictate terms on how to hold the government accountable.

“We are waiting for the Bill whenever and wherever it comes from so that we deal with it. We, however, do not anticipate a Bill stipulating when, where and how the government can be opposed and by who,”he said last month through his spokesman, Denis Onyango.

“Such a prescription would be unprecedented. We will likely take it as a new affront to the Constitution and will be responded to as such.”

Structured opposition

Yesterday, Makueni Senator Daniel Maanzo confirmed that Kalonzo is scheduled to issue a major statement today regarding the country’s political situation. Maanzo, who also challenged Raila to come clean on whether he will contest for the presidency in 2027, said Kalonzo was keen on having a structured opposition.

“I can confirm that Kalonzo will have a major press conference. I can also confirm that all he wants is a structured opposition, which the President is also pushing for because it is at the moment not well structured,” he said.

“We as a party also want a structured opposition because as of now the coalition members are not even aware of their roles.”

Kibwezi East MP Jessica Mbalu also confirmed that Kalonzo will issue a major statement.

“Let me not give the details of the statement because we do not want to pre-empt what he will say,” said Mbalu.

Although Kitui Senator Enock Wambua declined to comment on Kalonzo’s interest in the position of Leader of Official Opposition, he said he was only aware that he (Kalonzo) intends to vie for the presidency in 2027.

“What I know is that he is ready to run for the presidency at the earliest available opportunity, which is 2027,” he said.

Although elections were conducted only four months ago, Kalonzo’s allies have in recent days been demanding that Raila endorses the former Vice President for the 2027 presidential election. They have argued that there is need to identify a strong candidate early to give them time to prepare to run against President Ruto, who will be seeking re-election.

This could complicate the political equation for Azimio amid reports that its chairman, retired President Uhuru Kenyatta, could retire from party politics to concentrate on his regional peace keeping role.

National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula has not made matters easier for Azimio after he ruled in October that the coalition was not recognised in Parliament because it has no elected members of its own, being a coalition political party.

This could pave way for new political alignments once the coalition agreement lapses in the next two months. Should that happen, it will open a window for Kalonzo and his allies to craft a new coalition that
could position him to automatically become Leader of the Official Opposition if he gets the numbers he needs in Parliament.

The proposed law says the Leader of the Opposition will be the leader or nominee of the second largest party or coalition after the ruling party or coalition.

At the moment, ODM party has the second largest number of MPs after UDA, which formed government as part of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Leader’s role

In the Bill, the Leader of the Opposition shall be the candidate nominated by a political party or a coalition political party or coalition of political parties which secures the second greatest number of votes in any concluded presidential election and whose political party or coalitions receive at least 25 per cent of all the members of the National assembly, secures the second greatest number of votes in any concluded presidential election or the person who secures the second greatest number of votes in an election.

Some of the roles envisaged for the holders of the two offices are scrutinising, criticising and making suggestions for improvement to legislation, policy and financial proposals by the government.

The leader will also survey, appraise and criticise government administration, examine expenditures and public accounts, seeking information and clarification on government policies and directives.

He or she will, among other duties, submit a report for debate to the National Assembly on the progress made in fulfilling Kenya’s international obligations.

The office of the opposition leader will be funded by the Exchequer and it will have all such powers and discretion necessary to solicit and mobilise for funding from various sources, including donor funding, to supplement its budgetary allocations and to finance its activities.

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