State of the Presidential Race in Kenya’s 2013 Elections

UPDATE:

Since this post went up Musalia Mudavadi joined the UhuRuto coalition. This sets the stage for a real two horse race for the presidency between Raila Odinga and either Mudavadi or Uhuru Kenyatta. It is very likely that Mudavadi will run as a compromise candidate due to the charges Uhuru is facing at the ICC. This development, considering Kenya’s ethnic arithmetic, essentially gives the Uhuru camp a head start ahead of the March 2013 presidential elections. Whatever happens, this promises to be a very interesting and close presidential election.

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The presidential race in Kenya’s 2013 elections is beginning to take shape. Yesterday Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto unveiled a political pact that will see them run on a joint ticket, with Mr. Kenyatta at the top of the ticket. Messrs Uhuru and Kenyatta both have pending cases at the ICC on charges that they were behind the post-election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007; leaving 1300 death and more than 300,000 displaced. This has led some to dub their joint platform the “ICC ticket,”  since many see the union of the two as solely driven by their joint desire to earn immunity from prosecution by the ICC once they secure the presidency.

uhuru

Uhuru Kenyatta

The second big coalition will see former allies turned foes and then allies – Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka – come together. Mr. Musyoka is the sitting Vice President while Mr. Odinga is the Prime Minister. The latter is believed by many to have been the winner of the disputed 2007 presidential election. The electoral commission at the time said it did not know who won the election and declared President Kibaki reelected, sparking two months of violence across the country.

The third potential political grouping might gravitate around Odinga’s former deputy, Mr. Musalia Mudavadi. Mr. Mudavadi has been rumored to be in talks with several smaller parties, including those of Peter Kenneth, Raphael Tuju, among others.

Raila Odinga

Raila Odinga

The latest developments will make for an interesting race moving forward. The ethnic arithmetic involved – Kenyans vote largely along ethnic lines – will make for a very close race (More on this soon). Messrs Odinga and Kenyatta are the clear front-runners, with the former having a slight lead in the most recent opinion polls. The constitution requires the president elect to win 50 percent plus one votes, making it very likely that there will be a runoff between the top two contenders after the first round. The ethnic calculations makes Odinga, a Luo, the likely winner in case of a runoff (Uhuru, a Kikuyu, is the son of Kenya’s first president. The current president, Mwai Kibaki, is also a Kikuyu.) But Mr. Kenyatta might still win in the first round.

The biggest uncertainty moving forward will be the candidature of both Uhuru and Ruto. Following the opening of their cases at the ICC they had to resign as cabinet ministers. Already there is a petition in court seeking to bar them from running in the upcoming elections on grounds that their integrity is questionable. The constitution requires only individuals of the highest integrity to be eligible to run for office (It is hard to see how any Kenyan politician will avoid having at least one strike against their candidature).

The supreme court may eventually bar Uhuru and Kenyatta from running – the talk in the street is that if they are unfit to be mere cabinet ministers then they should also not occupy the two highest offices in the country. Their supporters obviously disagree. In their rallies “UhuRuto” have played the nationalist card, insisting that not foreigners (read the ICC) but Kenyans will decide who will be their next president. It is still unclear what course of action they and their supporters would take were they to be barred from running.

More on this soon.

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