By Kisemei Mutisya
Kenya’s elections attract interest regionally and globally and so the 2022 general elections are no exception. As with any other elections, there is a tendency to generate interest and anxiety at the same time.
The importance of this election lies in the following areas- that the incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta is not running having completed his two terms allowed under the constitution. Secondly, the elections are taking place after the 2017 elections that were nullified by the supreme court and boycotted by Raila Odinga in the rerun.
The nullification raised a number of pertinent questions that were raised by the supreme court or scholars regarding the viability or sustainability of Kenya as a nation-state. Among them are questions regarding institutional reforms, electoral justice, partisan security forces, weak and underfunded electoral agency, and rising social inequalities accompanied by gross human rights violations and a deteriorating economy.
While some of these issues have received political attention, most of the factors that triggered fraudulent elections persist or have worsened but the political tensions that defined the 2017 elections have thawed after the 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.
The handshake reconfigured power relations leading to a new political outfit pitting, on the one hand, the Azimio Alliance under Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto of One Kenya Alliance on the other. The power struggle between the two political opponents has defined the succession matrix and has formed the basis under which the politics in Kenya is taking shape.
The question in the minds of many Kenyans is who would win the presidency and form the next government? The short answer is that Raila Odinga would the presidency in round two while Deputy President William Samoei Ruto would be forced into opposition politics but having contested the presidential results in the supreme court.
Raila’s presidency has enjoyed state support and patronage unlike his last four attempts at the presidency. Furthermore, Raila has launched a campaign with a ten-point manifesto based on social spending in areas such as water, education, health, job creation, food security, youth empowerment, and administrative continuity aimed at building on existing projects.
Deputy President on the hand has popularised his bottom-up economy and is the defender of the poor or the hustlers as he is politically referred to. Ruto is yet to launch his campaign manifesto but has hinted at the same issues as Raila but perhaps the difference is the emphasis.
Whereas both Raila and Ruto have campaigned vigorously, elite polarization and uncertainty prevail as the two politicians battle for supremacy across counties.
Railas traditional power base of Luo Nyanza has remained rock solid, his other traditional support base in western Kenya, Coast and Nairobi have been split but gained in the Mount Kenya region suggesting a slight lead over Ruto whose Rift Valley bastion has remained solid including western Kenya and parts of Nairobi County.
Numerous opinion polls in the recent past have indicated Raila making significant gains in the Mount Kenya region and lower eastern after former Vice president Kalonzo Musyoka threw his weight behind Raila Odinga’s presidential bid. The recent political developments suggest a possible Raila presidency but not sufficient to guarantee the 50 plus one first-round victory.
Presidential victory in the rerun is most probable to secure the presidency on a simple majority but the victory is almost certain. Whoever wins the presidency would inherit a Uhuru legacy of debts, insecurity, economic ruin and external forces pushing for another set of structural adjustment programs that would demand implementation contrary to the external environment propagated by international financial institutions and China. Either way, Kenyans would be called upon to tighten their belts.