Can Mudavadi play kingmaker in Kenya?
Sitting up on stage, Musalia Mudavadi (pictured left) looked deep in thought. Among the Luhya community from Western Kenya, he is their man of the moment.
The symbol of his Amani, or Peace, coalition, which includes the United Democratic Forum, Kanu and the New Ford-Kenya, are two clasped hands. To show support, Mudavadi’s followers take every opportunity to hold and shake their hands above their heads.
Mudavadi describes himself as the “third force” in this election. When I interviewed him recently, he said: “The two other coalitions seem to have an axe to grind with each other. We are completely different, we don’t have an axe to grind with anybody, but we do have an axe to grind with poverty.”
In January, he told the Kenyan media that his coalition would win millions of votes. The latest opinion polls, however, place him at a distant third, after Raila Odinga, and Uhuru Kenyatta.
Even so, if there is a second round the candidate he backs might become the next president.
His head of strategy, Mikhisa Kituyi, who is also running for county senate in Bungoma, couldn't tell me who Mudavadi will be backing.
Yet, Kituyi hedged his comments: “We have not excluded any options, and that we will take a position, after the election."
Earlier this year, Mudavadi was briefly wooed by Uhuru's Kenyatta's Jubilee Alliance, but negotiations turned sour. I asked Kituyi whether that would make a difference to Mudavadi’s decision.
“We can’t afford to act like jilted lovers,” Kituyi responded. “The challenge goes beyond egos, it will be which configuration best interests Kenya”.
Dismas Mokua, a political analyst for Africa Axis, disagrees. He believes that Odinga or Kenyatta will “bypass Mudavadi, and deal directly with the officials elected at a grassroots level.”
“If we had strong political parties in Kenya, he would be a kingmaker. But there is no incentive for people to be loyal to him, there is no punishment if they aren’t.”
Mudavadi has been in and out of Kenyan politics since 1989. This could either be his chance to finally make a big impact. Or, perhaps, after Monday, he could be forced out into the political wilderness.