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Monday, 26 June 2017

Most crowded election still slims down to Uhuru, Raila


President Kenyatta beat Mr Odinga by 833,887 votes in the 2013 poll

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses a rally at Mutuati market in Igembe North on June 24, 2017. President Kenyatta beat Mr Odinga by 833,887 votes in the 2013 poll. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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On the second Tuesday of August this year, Kenyans will go to the ballot again as President Uhuru Kenyatta seeks a second term in a rematch against his 2013 main challenger, Raila Odinga, and six others.

It is also an election that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has promised will be foolproof, having invested Sh45 billion in the process.

“Our election is expensive because we do not trust each other,” Mr Chris Msando, IEBC acting ICT director, told the Nation.

The commission is splashing Sh675 million on satellite technology in 1,500 of the 41,000 polling stations that do not have 3G network to transmit the results. 

Comparatively, the commission is spending three times more for this technology than on the 3G/2G network, at Sh150 million.

During the 2013 polls, only 17,000 of the 33,000 polling stations transmitted results before a technical hitch blacked out the process, a mistake the commission hopes will not happen again. 

Mr Msando’s take on lack of trust — and how expensive it can be — aptly summarises the life of the IEBC from 2013, when it declared President Kenyatta validly elected, and now, when it is planning an election it says must happen right.

Mr Odinga last year led weeks of protests to demand the resignation of the Issack Hassan-led IEBC, whom he blamed for his loss in 2013.

Enter Mr Wafula Chebukati, a camera-shy, soft-spoken University of Nairobi-trained lawyer who was picked to head the seven-member IEBC, down from the nine under Mr Hassan.

The new IEBC came with election laws that required a technology-based voting that the Odinga team believes will curb rigging.

But even with the new team, nagging queries regarding procurement and numerous court cases have gnawed on the credibility of the commission.

For instance, Mr Odinga has opposed the Sh2.5 billion ballot paper printing tender award to Dubai-based Al-Ghurair, saying the firm has links with President Kenyatta, and that its officials met Mr Kenyatta at State House together with IEBC staff to negotiate the tender.

Jubilee and IEBC have denied the claims.

On August 8, about 19 million registered voters will cast their ballots to elect 1,882 Kenyans, from President to their member of the county assembly, spanning six elective seats. 

The 14,552 candidates vying for various seats in the election will be 1,776 more than the 12,776 that offered themselves for election in March 2013.

The number would have been even higher were it not for a ban on party hopping that President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga last year whipped their members in Parliament to pass.


The provision made it illegal for politicians, as had been the norm, to jump ship to other parties after losing in the nominations.

But with it came the independent candidates, the new political breed threatening to eat into the two main parties’ numbers in Parliament, and creating a huge dilemma in their main support bastions.

At 3,752, the independents are the single biggest number of candidates from one unit in the election and double that of Jubilee, the party with the biggest number, coming in a distant second at 1,801. 

There were only 350 independent candidates in the 2013 elections.

Analysts and pollsters have predicted that the election will be a tight race between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, with neither of them able to make the 50 per cent plus one constitutional threshold to be declared president in the first round.

President Kenyatta beat Mr Odinga by 833,887 votes in the 2013 poll, getting 6,174,433 against the ODM leader’s 5,340,546. 

With 50.5 per cent of the total votes cast, Mr Kenyatta escaped a run-off with only about 8,000 votes.

Now, a confident Kenyatta, banking on what he argues has been an exemplary development record, says he will be re-elected. 

Last year, he convinced 11 parties to merge to form Jubilee Party and poached over 40 MPs and five governors from the Opposition.

Conversely, Mr Odinga, under the National Super Alliance, claims he is assured of 10 million votes, banking on what he sees as “a referendum on the bad state of affairs” against President Kenyatta’s government.

With the addition of Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, who had 483,981 votes in 2013, and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani, Mr Odinga’s team now says he stands a better chance of winning on August 8.

Six other candidates — Ekuru Aukot of Thirdway Alliance Kenya, Mohamed Abduba Dida of Tunza Coalition, Cyrus Jirongo of the United Democratic Party, as well as independent candidates Joe Nyagah, Michael Wainaina and Japheth Kaluyu — are also battling for the top seat.