The Presidential Race in Kenya’s 4th of March 2013 Election

The race to succeed President Kibaki promises to be an interesting one. All the pointers indicate that it will be a close race between the Raila-Kalonzo-Wetangula and co. faction vs. the Uhuru-Ruto-Mudavadi and co. faction. Prime Minister Raila is expected to be at the top of the ticket under an umbrella special purpose vehicle called CORD (Coalition for Reforms and Democracy). Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta leads his own SPV called the Jubilee Alliance. Below I give a little background information before delving into the state of the race.

Institutions Matter:

The 2011 Kenyan constitution mandates that the winning presidential candidate garner 50% + 1 of the votes cast and at least 25% of the votes in at least half of Kenya’s 47 counties. In addition, presidential candidates and their veep candidates must run on a joint ticket. Previously, the presidential candidate could promise the veep slot to any number of ethnic chiefs. The constitution also limits the president’s ability to buy support by limiting the number of cabinet slots to 22 (necessitating the creation of minimum winning coalitions).

This situation has forced Kenya’s politicians to form alliances that cross ethnic lines, a change from the past when nearly all the major ethnic groups produced their own presidential candidates. The logic of minimum winning coalitions has set in, with two main camps forming ahead of the polls – Mr. Odinga has insisted all year on the stump that this is a two horse race between him and a straw man non-reformer, and that any other candidates are mere donkeys.

In this cycle the big five (Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kamba and Kalenjin, together making over 70%) are all in either CORD or the Jubilee Alliance. Continuing the Luo-Kikuyu feud that has characterized Kenya’s political history since 1966, this election will pit the son of Kenya’s first president (Kenyatta) vs. that of the first vice president (Odinga). CORD’s formateur is Odinga (a Luo) who leads the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Jubilee’s is Kenyatta (a Kikuyu) who is leader of The National Alliance (TNA).

It is likely that CORD will field Odinga as the presidential candidate and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (a Kamba) as his running mate. Jubilee is likely to field Kenyatta as the the presidential candidate and William Ruto (a Kalenjin) as his running mate. This would leave the Luhya as a big five swing group. Such a scenario favors Odinga, who is already widely popular in Western Province (Luhya-land) and sections of Rift Valley Province (Kalenjin-land). This scenario is likely, but not set in stone.

The ICC Question:

Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto are facing charges at the ICC over the post election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007-08. Back then they were in opposing parties – Mr. Ruto with Odinga in ODM and Mr. Kenyatta with Kibaki in PNU. They are both suspected to have funded gangs of rival ethnic groups (Kalenjin and Kikuyu) that committed heinous crimes including murder, rape, and arson. The international community has sent a strong signal – through Kofi Annan’s statements, threats of sanctions and the EU’s travel ban on the duo – that the two should not run for office.

The Kikuyu business elite (including cash crop farmers and horticulturalists who would be hardest hit by international sanctions) have thus been trying to prevail on Mr. Kenyatta to forgo his presidential run in favor of Mr. Musalia Mudavadi (a Luhya) – evidence suggests that this was the carrot that Uhuru and Ruto used to lure Mr. Mudavadi into their coalition. If Uhuru steps down for Mudavadi then a good chunk of the Luhya vote would depart CORD for Jubilee. But it may create room for the lesser presidential candidates from Kenyatta’s region – Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth – to get a sizable chunk of the Kikuyu vote. Plus it is unclear if Mudavadi can weather the accusations of being Kenyatta’s project on top of campaigning against the formidable Mr. Odinga. Kenyatta’s last presidential bid faltered partly because he was seen as Moi’s project.

The State of the Race:

Ipsos Synovate, a local polling company, just released a poll of adults 18+ on their preferred candidates for president. Mr. Odinga leads the pack with 34% of the respondents saying he is their preferred candidate. Mr. Kenyatta is second with 27%. Mudavadi, the other likely Jubilee candidate polls at 5%. Musyoka and Ruto poll at 3% and 2% respectively. It is important to note that it is only Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kenyatta who are presently outperforming their ethnic group size in the polls (by 21% and 2% respectively). 22% of Kenyans remain undecided. Notice that the number of undecideds is highest in provinces that lack a presidential front-runner, i.e. all except Central (Kenyatta) and Nyanza (Odinga).

click on image to enlarge.

opinion polls

If Odinga eventually faces off with Kenyatta the key swing region that will determine the outcome of the election will be the Rift Valley Province. Mr. Odinga will have Nyanza, North Eastern, Western, Coast and half of Nairobi in the bag. Mr. Kenyatta will have Central, (possibly) the Rift Valley and half of Nairobi locked in. In this scenario (let’s call it scenario 1), for Mr. Kenyatta to win he would have to run the numbers in both the Mt. Kenya region (which as a whole has about 24% of voters, according to the 2009 census) and the Rift Valley Province (with 25% of voters) and get a good showing in Nairobi.  For Mr. Odinga to stop him he would need to have a respectable showing in the Rift Valley – something that he can given the fact that he has managed to keep key leaders from the region in his party, ODM. In Scenario 1 Odinga will be the favorite to win.

If Jubilee nominates Mudavadi to face Odinga, then things will get interesting (It would also potentially make for a de-ethnicized presidenital race). Key questions will be:

  1. Whether the Kikuyu would vote for Mudavadi, given that the ticket would not have a Kikuyu (with Ruto as running mate). Would they opt for other Kikuyu presidential aspirants in Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth?
  2. Whether Mudavadi would manage to unite the Luhya bloc behind him. Luhya leaders have traditionally had a hard time uniting the region to vote as a bloc. Can Mudavadi overcome the sub-ethnic divisions of the Luhya?
  3. Whether Mudavadi will be able to effectively fight the inevitable portrayal of his candidacy by the opposition as Uhuru Kenyatta’s (or Kibaki’s) project. Can Mudavadi be his own man?

If the Rift Valley, Mt. Kenya (Central and sections of Eastern) and Western vote go to Mudavadi en masse, it is hard to see how Odinga can make it to State House. In this scenario, turnout would be key. Jubilee would win by a landslide. But while this situation is likely, it’ll still be a huge gamble for Jubilee to nominate Mudavadi.

Mr. Odinga has more national appeal than his former ODM assistant Mudavadi. The latter lacks a strong political base in his home region of Western Province. Add to that the fact that he will leave the gates with the imprint of “project” on his forehead, not to mention the uncertainty over how Mt. Kenya region would vote and the election becomes a real tossup ex ante. Nominating Mudavadi to head the Jubilee ticket would be a high risk gamble for Uhuru and Ruto that would either pay off big come March 4th or hand Odinga victory on a silver platter.

The Jubilee Alliance will nominate its candidate (either Uhuru or Mudavadi) next week. CORD will name its presidential candidate (very likely to be Mr. Odinga) on the 22nd. I expect minor defections and realignments that will have a non-trivial impact on the race before then. All in all right now Odinga is a slight favorite to become the fourth president of Kenya.


the waki commission and the need for total truth

I have previously stated my sympathies for William Ruto. But on this one I think the man from Eldoret North is going a bit too far. For a whole minister to go on record and rubbish the work of a highly respected commission is indeed deplorable. I hope that soon enough Ruto will realise that the more he continues to shout from the roof tops about the uselessness of the commission’s finding the more Kenyans will start pointing fingers at him.

It is true that the Rift Valley was the hotbed of the violence and that most of the perpetrators may have been Ruto’s adopted constituents. It is therefore expected that someone from the Rift Valley would come out and defend the perpetrators. But this is not how to go about it. The systemic problems that caused the flare up last January will not be solved by the commission’s prosecution of the perpetrators. I hope Kenyans realise that and that the commission appreciates this fact in its recommendations – I have downloaded a copy of the report but because of a term paper and other commitments haven’t been able to read through it (plus it’s like over 500 pages long!). In light of this fact, I don’t see why Ruto wants the truth to be swept under the carpet this early. He ought to let the truth come out and then we shall deal with the truth as responsible citizens who want a united future for Kenya.

If the people of Rift Valley and their leaders killed innocent Kenyans, Kenyans deserve to know. The victims need to know who these people are. From here we ought then to proceed to why these atrocities were committed and if we are true to ourselves we shall realise that the solution is not retribution but honest reconciliation. It is no secret that land was the issue in the Rift Valley. On this basis, some form of amnesty and redistribution of land can be worked out – but only after the truth has been put out there.

So Mr. Ruto should not be afraid, this only betrays his guilt – whether apparent or real. He should instead advocate for a responsible handling of the reconciliation process. This is his only realistic way of navigating through the tricky issue of the violence. If he however choses to confront the rest of the country by rubbishing the report, he will lose face and his own party might throw him under the bus. More importantly, Kenya may end up further divided with residents of the Rift Valley feeling alienated and marginalised. Nobody wants that. I hope this is clear to William Ruto.

Kenyan negotiations enter critical stage

The Annan led team trying to reestablish sanity in Kenya will from tomorrow start looking at the most contentious issues thus far – the issues of the alleged election fraud, land, economic disparity and constitutional reform to limit the powers of the president. This is expected to be the most critical stage of the negotiations because most of the violence that has visited Kenya over the last month was caused either directly or indirectly by one or a combination of the above factors.

The government side has indicated that it will not compromise on the matter of Kibaki having been elected even as the ODM continues to insist that the election was stolen by the Kibaki camp. Today (Wednesday, 5th) both sets of negotiators held meetings with their respective principals to brief them on the goings on in Serena. Annan, who has been joined by former Tanzanian president Mkapa and Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, expressed optimism over the talks. His sentiments were echoed by both Ruto and Kilonzo of ODM and PNU-ODM-Kenya respectively.

Meanwhile the central bank governor issued a statement saying that the Kenyan economy is expected to fail to meet the projected annual growth of 5% for the year 2008. This he attributed to the adverse effect the recent violence has had on production, consumption and investor confidence. The private sector estimates that more than 400,000 Kenyans will lose their jobs if the situation does not improve soon. This would be bad for a country with unemployment rate that is approaching the high forties.

Kenyan leaders ought to know that the last thing they need is even more angry, hungry and jobless young people in the streets.

beyond the chaos, kenya and its institutions

Who would have thought back in 2002 that it was under a Kibaki presidency that Kenya would experience violence and chaos of the magnitude being reported in the news? Who would have guessed that Kibaki, the gentleman of Kenyans politics, would be the one being accused (whether justly or not) of rigging elections and trying to unlawfully hang onto power?

As Kenyans deliberate among and within themselves on the way forward, it is important to reflect on the causes of the existing mayhem and establish some truths. At the risk of sounding too simplistic, I am of the opinion that the existing anarchy in Kenya is as a result the lack of strong, impersonal institutions.

The lack of strong institutions handed the country a compromised electoral commission, full of appointees of the same person running for re-election. It was always obvious who the commissioners would side with in the event of a disputed outcome as was seen last Sunday. It therefore came as no surprise that while admitting that there were irregularities and suspicious figures on the tallying sheets, the commission did not order a recount or complete audit but proceeded to declare the president the winner base on the same questionable figures.

The lack of a culture of independent institutionalism has also made the opposition wary to present their case in the Kenyan high court, yet another institution teeming with the president’s appointees. In fact it is this lack of faith in the judiciary that left Kenyans no alternative but to resort to justice by the masses, which has unfortunately been laced with rioting, murder, ethnic confrontations and looting.

As the politicians get ready to have dialogue and possibly come up with a power sharing arrangement, on top of the agenda should be a clear and genuine commitment to the creation of impersonal institutions that will serves Kenyans well. It is of paramount importance that Kenyans develop confidence in the country’s institutions in order to avert situations when citizens take the law into their own hands – as we are witnessing now.


It is also important for Kenyans to realize that they cannot afford to take the back seat and let the politicians “institutionalize” tribalism. Kenyans should unite in their opposition to ethnic polarization because the country needs all its citizens in its quest for economic and social development. The just concluded elections have shown that it is quite possible for Kenyans of different ethnicities to come together for a common cause. Wananchi should be proud of this fact and not let the politicians take it away from them.

more violence expected at tomorrow’s odm rally in Kenya

The main opposition party in Kenya, ODM, has announced that it will go ahead with its scheduled protest rally tomorrow in Nairobi in defiance of a government ban on all political rallies. Kenya has in the last three days witnessed the worst kind of violence in its 44-year history due to disputed results of the just concluded presidential election.

The government insists that the incumbent won while the main opposition party believes that they were unjustly denied victory through rigging. Observers, both local and international, and the electoral commission of Kenya have said that there were irregularities in the tallying of results and that this might have influenced the outcome of the polls.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Wednesday that his party will not relent in its quest to have Kibaki resign. He also set this as a pre-condition for any level of dialogue between him and the president.

And to complicate matters further, the head of the electoral commission said Wednesday that he doesn’t know who won last Thursday election and that he announced the results while under duress from the government.

As the politicians remain stubborn and unwilling to resolve the impasse, ordinary Kenyans are the ones bearing the brunt of the stalemate. The death toll this far is believed to be over 300 and property worth millions of shillings destroyed. Shops remain closed and those that have opened ran out of supplies as people rushed in to stock up.

Thrusday’s opposition rally will be a real test for both sides of the political divide and may determine the course of events in this formerly peaceful and stable country in East Africa.

Many concerned Africans have expressed shock and disappointment as one of the rare working models of democracy and economic development on the continent goes up in flames infront of their eyes. The African Union president John Kofuor of Ghana is scheduled to jet into the country on Thursday to try and mediate between the president and his opposition rival.

tension high in nairobi as eck delays announcement of results

I just called home and my contacts tell me that there is increasing tension in the capital as the ECK continues to delay the announcement of presidential results. This is most acute in Eastlands where many youth have already started taking to the streets to protest what they see as an attempt by the government to rig the polls, especially the numbers coming out of PNU strongholds.

These are all unconfirmed rumors though. The real culprit is the ECK. They have done a great job so far and it is a shame that they are delaying in the tallying of results.

This is a worrying development. The last thing Kenya needs is rioting in the streets of the capital at a time when there is high tension among the members of both PNU and ODM. KBC is saying that Raila Odinga and his running mate Mudavadi are about to make press statements.

Unconfirmed rumors: Moi in hospital? and I also hear that Kibaki was down with fatigue? Any confirmation of this?

More to come soon……

parliamentary results

The parliamentary results so far in are overwhelmingly in favor of ODM. PNU has had a very poor show for a president’s party – a further sign of all the weaknesses I kept pointing out (in other fora) during the campaigns. PNU candidates lost to DP, Safina, Ford People, among other parties in central Kenya. ODM has a an almost clean sweep in Nyanza and put up a strong show in Rift Valley and Western – where many of Kibaki’s cabinate ministers lost. Coast is also leaning towards ODM.

This is a worrying phenomenon for those who care about checks and balances. There will definitely be a big void in parliamentary affairs due to the lack of a credible opposition party (if ODM wins, that is). My hope is that ODM-K gets enough votes to be able to form a strong parliamentary opposition party to keep ODM in check.

KANU seems dead and buried. And with PNU having split into a thousand parties it is unlikely that they will remain as a coalition if they find themselves in the opposition by the end of tomorrow.

Kibaki is still showing strongly in the presidential race. But this is not backed by the parliamentary results which are mostly in favor of ODM. Things look bad for the Kibaki tena team and for the spirit of democracy in the country.

All governments, whether good or bad, need a strong opposition to keep them honest and dilligent at their duty to provide public goods to all Kenyans.

kibaki narrows Raila lead

Kibaki has narrowed Raila’s lead to just 8 percentage points. Raila’s lead has gone down to about 500,000 votes. There are still more results expected to come in from the Rift Valley and other parts of Nyanza that had irregularities. Central Kenya came out almost 100% for Kibaki.

It is not yet over. Not until all the results come in. This election, as was predicted, is going to be a close one despite ODM’s visible confidence in the likes of Ruto and Balala.

signs of things to come

I am watching KBC and the mood seems to be indicative of the imminent announcement of a Raila victory. Kibaki is trailing the ODM candidate by almost a million votes. KBC, the state channel has shown victory speeches by Ruto, Balala and Nyong’o. Uhuru also appeared for a brief moment telling Kenyans to be patient and wait for the ECK to announce the results.

The state channel seems to have sensed the change and therefore is no longer sounding like a pro-government mouth piece that we have come to expect of it since independence. This sounds more like what happened after the 2002 elections.

Ruto made a speech about the winds of change that are sweeping through the country. Balala and Nyong’o talked about celebrations in readiness for the work ahead next year. Visibly tired and worn out Uhuru sounded disraught in the wake of the utter collapse of the Kibaki tena campaign.

The president’s campaign team had this election to lose and they seem to have done so in style. Raila is leading by a Nyanza-esque margin in Rift Valley, a known Kanu heartland. The opposition leader is also leading in Western, Coast, Nyanza and by a slight margin in North Eastern.

Kibaki is leading in Central and Nairobi (slight margin). While Musyoka has a commanding lead in his Eastern province backyard.

Confirmation has arrived that Ndile has lost his seat. He will be missed a lot.

kenya’s election updates

The national presidential results are finally trickling in. ECK has also started regular updates with the parliamentary and presidential tallies. Interesting results thus far. Kibaki is still trailing Raila by over half a million votes. KBC has started acting like the GoP is going to lose. But there are still millions of uncounted votes.  It’s definitely going to be a close election between Kibaki and Raila, going by the provinvial numbers.

Parliamentary results show that ODM will have a majority in Parliament. PNU candidates have lost to either ODM or one of the many sub-PNU parties. ODM-K has had a decent showing in Eastern Province with most of Ukambani voting for ODM-K candidates.

So far the VP and 18 ministers have lost their seats. These are: Musikari Kombo, Newton Kulundu, Kipruto Kirwa, Moses Akaranga, Simeon Nyachae, Njenga Karume, Raphael Tuju, David Mwiraria, Mohamud Abdi Mohammed, Morris Dzoro, Suleiman Shakombo, Mutahi Kagwe, Paul Sang, Kivutha Kibwana, Mutua Katuku,  Joseph Munyao and Kalembe Ndile.

These big upsets have also reflected on the presidential vote with ODM beating PNU in areas that were deemed to be PNU strongholds – Kombo and Nyachae being prime examples.

more to come soon…

kenya votes

So today is the day Kenyans have been anticipating for the last several months. Beginning at 6 am. poll stations across the country will be opened so that Kenyans can go and choose their next government.

With campaigns having officially ended, the ball is now in the hands of the voters – many of whom must be glad that the season of noise and abuses is over. It is my hope that there will be a respectable voter turn out so that Kenyans choose the leader that most people prefer to be in the State House. I also hope that neither side will do anything silly that would make the loser not accept the outcome and thus drag the country through a period of uncertainty.

The race is going to be tight. According to the polls, Raila and Kibaki are in a statistical tie for the presidential vote. A high voter turnout could swing it either way. The parliamentary races are also going to be hotly contested. Even Raila is not so sure about his Lang’ata seat. Other doubtables are Mudavadi and a host of other outgoing MPs in the city.

All in all may it all go well so that come the 28th of December all Kenyans can forget about their political differences and come together to work for a better united Kenya.