Meru Senator Mithika Linturi has named a youthful female lawyer as his running mate in the gubernatorial race, setting the stage for a bruising battle with incumbent Kiraitu Murungi and Woman Rep Kawira Mwangaza.
The senator is running on Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party ticket, Mr Murungi under his Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) and Ms Mwangaza as an independent candidate.
By naming Ms Linda Kiome, an advocate of the High Court who is under 40 years old, Mr Linturi seeks to appeal to women and young people that he said have been sidelined in the country’s leadership.
“I was disappointed that the current Parliament could not enact the two-thirds gender rule. But some of these things don’t have to be in our law statutes for them to be implemented. They need our collective responsibility and recognition that women who constitute half of our population should be included in our leadership at all levels,” Mr Linturi said.
Research and negotiations
The senator unveiled Ms Kiome in Meru town on Sunday night in a ceremony attended by MPs Kubai Kiringo (Igembe Central) and Kathuri Murungi (Imenti South) and several MP and MCA aspirants. Mr Kathuri is angling to inherit Mr Linturi’s seat in the Senate in the August 9 polls on a UDA ticket.
Mr Linturi said that before settling on Ms Kiome, he engaged in research and negotiations and a panel of seven professionals interviewed two candidates from an original list of 12.
“It was a consultative process and for two months we engaged residents and also carried out an opinion poll in which Meru’s over 780,000 voters overwhelmingly told me they wanted a woman deputy governor who also represents the youth. I have no power to deny them their right,” he said.
Ms Kiome hailed her appointment as “a true recognition of the role the youth and women play in the political space” and pledged to rally the groups to elect Mr Linturi as Meru’s third governor.
The lawyer took over as acting president of the Law Society of Kenya when Nelson Havi was ousted in January this year and is the chairperson of the Mt Kenya branch caucus. She has also served as board member of Meru National Polytechnic and Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital.
The Meru governor’s contest is likely to be won by the candidate who mobilises enough votes from the three sub-tribes of Imenti, Igembe and Tigania. With a running mate from Imenti North and Mr Kathuri on his side, Mr Linturi, who hails from Igembe South, says he has a balanced mix that is likely to send Mr Murungi home.
“My government will be the real face of Meru and I assure the people of Tigania that they have not been excluded as I have reserved them the post of county secretary. This is my promise,” he said.
Mr Linturi is also banking on eight of the 11 MPs in the county who are in UDA to mobilise voters as they drum up support for DP Ruto.
The MPs are John Paul Mwirigi (Igembe South), Kirima Ngucine (Imenti Central), Mugambi Rindikiri (Buuri), Mr Kiringo, Mr Kathuri, Gichunge Kabeabea (Tigania East), Halima Mucheke (nominated, also vying for the Imenti North seat) and Dr John Mutunga (Tigania West).
Only MPs Maoka Maore (Igembe North) and Mpuru Aburi (East African Legislative Assembly) are supporting Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga while Imenti North’s Rahim Dawood is running as an independent candidate.
Another factor that Mr Linturi will ride on is the feeling among the people from Igembe that since the Tigania have had a stint in power with Agriculture CS Peter Munya as the first governor and Imenti with Mr Murungi, it is the turn of the Igembe to rule.
Political analysts also say Mr Linturi is likely to capitalise on the fact that despite Mr Murungi, Mr Munya and Mr Aburi drumming up support for Azimio, the latter two have not strongly come out to campaign for Mr Murungi in their Tigania backyard.
Share of revenue
When he recently addressed farmers in Igembe South, Mr Munya indicated he was not on Mr Murungi’s side, saying he was yet to decide who to back for the governor’s seat.
“On top (in the presidential election), I ask you to vote for Raila Odinga but as for our local seats (governor and MP) we are still consulting and we will declare our stand,” the CS said.
However, Mr Murungi has countered by stating that despite declaring support for Mr Odinga, he had not forced anyone to vote for the ODM leader.
“I said that my wife and I will cast our vote in Raila’s basket. But I have not forced anyone to vote for him. Whether it is Raila or Ruto who becomes the President, as the governor of Meru I will get the share of revenue allocated to the county,” Mr Murungi said last week while campaigning in Mikinduri, Tigania East.
“I ask you to make a wise decision and give me a second term so that I can complete the projects I have started,” the governor added.
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