Opposition political parties announced an alliance on Wednesday to fight the August presidential and parliamentary elections against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s coalition.
Uhuru, 55, is seeking a second and final term after winning the 2013 race against veteran politician Raila Odinga, 72, whose Orange Democratic Movement is one of the five main opposition parties uniting.
The test will be whether the new coalition can agree on a single candidate before the vote without splintering.
Uhuru’s presidency has seen the economy grow at a steady 5 to 6 per cent a year, but has faced headwinds from a spate of terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds of people. He has faced criticism for not doing more to tackle corruption.
Some opinion polls have suggested Uhuru is ahead, although it is yet to be confirmed who his main rival will be. Voting in the country in the past has tended to be driven by tribal loyalties rather than policy.
Raila, who has lost three elections, wants to run again but is facing challenges from others in the opposition alliance.
He disputed the results of the last vote in 2013 and the election in 2007, which was followed by weeks of ethnic violence in which about 1,200 people died.
The opposition leader told supporters at the Bomas of Kenya rally that their focus for the next 30 days will be on mass voter registration. The IEBC will begin the exercise on January 16, ahead of the general election set for August 8.
The build-up to this year’s vote has already been marred by clashes between protesters and police, sparked by a row over who sits on a committee overseeing elections. At least four people died in the violence.
The government agreed to change the commissioners, whom the opposition accused of bias. New members are now being appointed.
At Wednesday’s launch rally for the new National Super Alliance of Kenya (Nasa), opposition politicians lined up in a packed venue to call for unity.
“Pray for us to solidify, to be one, to be united, and we shall win,” said Musalia Mudavadi, whose Amani National Congress Party is a member of the alliance.
The meeting also aimed to agree a response to an election law amendment, pushed through by the government, which the opposition said could lead to rigging by allowing the use of manual systems if electronic voting systems failed.
Electronic systems that were meant to ensure a transparent vote in 2013 collapsed, in what the opposition said undermined the legitimacy of the vote.
Some opposition politicians have previously called for protests against the election law amendment. But participants at today’s rally played down this option.
“We would have gone to the streets. But we have chosen to go register as voters,” said Nick Salat, secretary general of KANU, another of the groups in the new alliance which also includes the Wiper Party and Ford Kenya Party.
It was reported in December that the President personally telephoned Kanu leader Gideon Moi and urged him not to join the National Super Alliance.
This was the strongest signal that Uhuru, Deputy President William Ruto and the Jubilee Party are uneasy with the resurgent alliance. But Kanu’s flip-flopping has raised concerns the party might back Uhuru.
By Africafrique and agencies