The contest for the Mombasa County gubernatorial seat has brought out in fights in the Jubilee camp and broader interesting insights into the strategies of some candidates. This is according to a number of well-placed sources that have spoken to the Nairobi Law Monthly. The incumbent, Hassan Ali Joho is seen as a hot favourite to retain his seat even though his strongest challenge is seen to be posed by Senator Hassan Omar.
The race, however, has another candidate in Suleiman Shahbal who is running on the Jubilee Party ticket. Shahbal was the runner-up in the last election and has maintained a very low profile, while the stature of Governor Joho has rocketed. The dynamics have thus changed greatly to the disadvantage of Shahbal, who is trying his luck yet again.
Apart from cultivating close association with Deputy President William Ruto, Shahbal has not endeared himself to the voters in Mombasa. For instance, his highly publicised goal to establish a world-class university at the Coast province fizzled as quickly as he came with the idea. Further, his infamous speech at the Coast that Jubilee will buy votes or steal outright has made him appear like one more careless politician from Mombasa. But according to his opponents, Shahbal doesn’t have his eyes on Governor Joho’s seat but on Balala’s cabinet position.
As a result, many influential players close to Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala are not amused by Shahbal’s candidature and strategy. They see Shahbal to be deliberately targeting the position of cabinet secretary in case the Jubilee government wins the election in August. According to them, Shahbal’s candidature is just a means to an end. Balala’s camp contend that Shahbal knows too well that he has no chance against Governor Joho but is charming himself to Jubilee power barons with a view to topple Balala as cabinet secretary.
Both Balala and Shahbal are Arabs, a community that was seen as very influential, and which produced kingmakers during the Kanu era. However, the community’s fortunes and influence has ebbed in the past ten years. According to political analysts who mostly agree with the views of Balala’s supporters, Shahbal knows he will not win or come close, but wants to increase the number of votes Jubilee presidential Candidate gets in the coast and use that as his card to a cabinet secretary position.
As well, the decision by Shahbal to blackout his deputy from Jubilee campaign materials was seen by many observers as a calculated strategy by Shahbal to portray himself as one man army in the service of President Kenyatta, thus endearing himself to the President.
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