The Kenyan political sphere is at its fever pitch with the general elections just under two weeks away. As has been the norm, politicians from various divide are in their vintage best as the quest to leave a mark before the August 8 polls continues.
Currently, there are two major political affiliations that enjoy massive following. The Jubilee Party is led by incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta while National Super Alliance (NASA) is spearheaded by veteran politician Raila Odinga. They have the biggest camps in terms of three factors: budget, parties affiliated to their respective coalition and registered members.
This will only be the second election held under the new constitution promulgated in 2010. Figures released by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the body mandated to oversee the elections, suggest that this is by far the biggest elections in Kenyan history. There are a total of 19 million registered voters and 14,253 candidates vying for elective positions.
Out of these, 11,857 are contesting for the posts of ward representatives while 1,893 candidates are vying for member of National Assembly positions. Additionally, 210 aspirants are set for the gubernatorial race and 256 do battle for the senatorial race in different counties. Women representatives’ aspirants total up to 299.
These unusually high numbers of candidates have been primarily attributed to the constitution that favors the participation of independent candidates who form over 4,000 of the contestants.
Dark cloud still lingers
The dark cloud of the 2007-2008 post-election violence in which approximately 1,400 people lost their lives and thousands more displaced from their homes still lingers. The death of former Interior Security minister Maj. General (Rtd) Joseph Nkaiserry, who passed away in mid-July while on duty has been termed as a big blow to security operations this close to the polls.
In a national address, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett said that his forces are ready to handle any eventuality of the elections. “We are monitoring the whole country and we have a contingency plan for the election to make sure there is peace,” he told Citizen TV, a local broadcaster in a recent interview.
Messages of peace have been spread throughout the country during campaigns by the leaders in a bid to ease the tension that traditionally comes with the election period.
Fourth time a charm for Odinga?
Interestingly, it is the fourth time that Odinga is running for the presidency. He unsuccessfully bid for the top job in 1997, 2007 and 2013. In his last two campaigns, he strongly came out feeling that he was short changed. Indeed, in a Supreme Court ruling on the petition of the 2013 presidential results, the then Chief Justice Willy Mutunga determined that there were discrepancies but “were not at a massive scale” to warrant a re-run of the elections.
At 72 years, Odinga, who has also served as Prime Minister from 2008-2013, has since changed strategy this time around. He has taken his campaign trail to his chief opponent’s ‘stronghold’ of Central Province in Kenya to sell his agenda. Moreover, he has scrutinized the government’s failure to tackle corruption and the soaring cost of living which has seen the rise in food prices including maize, which is the staple food for majority of Kenyans.
On the flipside, President Kenyatta has focused on the achievements of his regime including the Standard Gauge Railway project which connects the country’s two major cities of Nairobi and Mombasa as he seeks re-election. He has vividly criticized the opposition time and again for copying their campaign tactics and lacking an agenda for the country.
In a relatively new practice, presidential debates were held last week in Kenya with the president bullishly snubbing the event, leaving Odinga to have a field day.
Emergence of young leaders
A week earlier, the debates for the presidential running mates took place and surprisingly only a youthful Eliud Muthiora showed up out of the eight candidates invited by Debates Media Limited. The 35-year-old Muthiora is part of a current crop of young leaders who have emerged to stake their claim into the political scene.
The other renowned youthful leader is one 28-year-old Paul Ongili who has served two terms as the chairman of Students Organization of Nairobi University and is vying to be a member of parliament in Nairobi.