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Kenya Opposition Names Presidential Candidate - 2002-09-18

A coalition of leading opposition parties in Kenya, the National Alliance Party of Kenya, known as NAK, says its presidential candidate for the December elections is Mwai Kibaki. It is the first time in years that the opposition has presented one candidate.

There was an air of jubilation at the meeting to announce the National Alliance Party of Kenya's presidential candidate, with supporters chanting Mwenge, which in Kiswahili means torch, the NAK's symbol.

Noah Wekesa, chairman of the coalition's co-coordinating committee, announced the group's choice. "The NAK council has by consensus nominated Honorable Mwai Kibaki, MP to be the NAK presidential candidate in the forthcoming general elections," he said.

Mr. Kibaki is the leader of the official opposition in Kenya, the Democratic Party.

Kijana Wamalwa, leader of opposition party Ford-Kenya, was chosen as NAK's vice presidential candidate and Charity Ngilu of the National Party of Kenya was selected as NAK's candidate for prime minister.

The three candidate selected by NAK have proven voter appeal. Running as leaders of their own parties they have, when their votes are combined, won the majority of votes in the past two multi-party elections. But none of them has been able, individually, to get more votes than the ruling Kanu party.

Being able to unite behind a single presidential candidate marks a major step forward for the opposition in Kenya. It is the first time since multi-party democracy was introduced in Kenya in 1992 that they have done so.

NAK is working on further expanding its coalition. It is in negotiations other opposition groups, as well as a group of Kanu rebels named the Rainbow Alliance, with the goal of creating a Super Alliance to end Kanu's long-time control of the government.

But Kenyan analysts say President Daniel arap Moi's choice of successor, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya's first president, still has a very good chance of winning the election. Even though NAK has united behind a candidate, the analysts say there are still so many potential presidential candidates in Kenya that it will be impossible for them all to unite against Mr. Kenyatta.