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Kenya's Presidential Race Likely to Be Close Contest
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Kenya's opposition political parties are shaping up for the general elections expected in December this year with election campaigns gaining momentum in the east Africa nation.

The main oppositional political parties -- the Orange Democratic Party-Kenya (ODM-K) and ODM - are due to nominate their presidential candidates on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 respectively, marking the start of official campaigns in which incumbent President Mwai Kibaki is expected to face a tough challenge for the top office.

Political analysts have predicted that Kenya's fourth multi- party polls are shaping up to be one of the closest races ever in the east Africa's biggest economy.

Politicians and aspiring ones are busy lining up their campaign machinery while pulling all stops to strike the right harmony with the electorate.

Normally, as is the case with all countries, one needs a political party to steer him or her to the coveted house, parliament.

President Kibaki, who is yet to announce his political party of choice, is seeking re-election for the second term in office during this year's presidential and parliamentary elections.

Kibaki, who on Tuesday received support from his predecessor Daniel Moi, is likely to face his former allies, who helped him to ascend to power in 2002.

"It is going to be a David versus Goliath battle for the presidency. He (President Kibaki) comes in the name of money, but we came in the name of change," said Raila Odinga, the leader of the main opposition, ODM.

The 62-year old opposition leader has spelt out ambitious programs that he said would transform Kenya into the center of trade and a key player in Africa's geopolitical map and general development.

"Kenyans will have only one government, the one they elected. The informal structures that currently exist are rooted in tribal alliances and cronyism, and our history tells us that these have been real engines running our past and current governments," he said.
Odinga, who had been instrumental in uniting opposition parties ahead of the 2002 polls and backing Kibaki's candidacy, is the latest of a handful of candidates to start official campaigns for the opposition ODM ticket to run against Kibaki.

Kibaki is already enjoying the support of retired president Moi, whose populous Rift Valley Province has the highest number of registered voters in the country.

Moi stood down after 2002 elections, in which his 47-year old party, KANU, was defeated by a coalition led by Kibaki. Moi's endorsement is a major boost for the incumbent's re-election bid.

The former leader, who ruled Kenya for 24 years, still wields great political influence.

Moi said he was disappointed that "tribalism and selfish individual interests have been entrenched in our society."

"After very careful assessment, informed by my political experience spanning half a century, I am convinced that Mwai Kibaki ought to be given the chance to complete the constitutionally accepted two-term tenure," Moi said during a news conference.

President Kibaki's team has hired a private campaigner to work on the logistics of his re-election. Kibaki's campaign team has said that their target was to get some 8 million votes, about 66 percent of the total number of the registered voters.

"They say they will bring so much money but my word is you take the money because it is your money but vote in the right box," Raila told his supporters on Sunday during a campaign rally in Mombasa, the country's coastal city.

William Ruto, who is running for ODM's presidential ticket against five other contenders for the post, said that plans to pick the party's presidential flag bearer are complete in readiness for the presidential elections.

The National Rainbow Coalition party of Kenya (NARC-Kenya), a new political party, formed a year ago and which is believed to be President Kibaki's party of choice, has urged the incumbent to call for early elections to counter the divided opposition.

But Kibaki has cautioned Kenyans against speculation, maintaining that the elections will be held as scheduled.

ODM suffered a split two weeks ago when the Raila faction walked away with ODM, while his ally and former foreign minister Kalonzo Musyoka, retained the ODM-Kenya. The two parties are still wrangling over the party's assets.

Political analysts say if the two -- ODM-K and ODM -- presidential aspirants could stick together, they could defeat the current incumbent who is widely expected to seek re-election at the expiry of his current term.

(Xinhua News Agency August 30, 2007)

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