Let’s hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Saturday March 2 2013


By L. Muthoni Wanyeki

The election is upon us! Our first following the tragedy of our last. Our first under the new Constitution.

What will the outcome be? The consensus of all recent opinion polls is that it is — as in 2007 — too close to call. The latest, commissioned by the African Centre for Open Governance from Infotrak Research and Consulting, was conducted between February 24 and 26.

What did it tell us?

First, that voter turnout will be high — at 99.3 per cent. This confirms that, despite what happened last time, Kenyans remain convinced of the importance of voting.

Second, that support for the Coalition for Reform and Democracy and the Jubilee Alliance is neck-to-neck. Both command no less than 45 per cent of the electorate.

The CORD has convincing leads on the Jubilee Alliance in six of the provinces. Only in Central and the Rift Valley does the Jubilee Alliance lead.

Third, Raila Odinga now has only a one per cent lead over Uhuru Kenyatta for the position of president — with Odinga’s support at 46 per cent and Kenyatta’s at 45 per cent.

Odinga has commanding leads in six provinces; Kenyatta only leads in two — Central and Rift Valley. Taking the provincial distribution of support and the margin of error into account, it is unlikely we will are going to see a first-round win.

In the event of a run-off, it appears Odinga would carry the day — garnering 51 per cent of the vote to Kenyatta’s 46 per cent. Meaning that Odinga would gain five per cent additional support as opposed to Kenyatta’s gaining one per cent additional support.

Following the first round, then, cultivation of the support bases of Musalia Mudavadi and Peter Kenneth — as well as of those who are undecided — will be critical.

Also critical will be paying attention to the age and gender distribution of Odinga’s and Kenyatta’s support bases. Odinga’s support base is the 18-39 age bracket — Kenyatta’s is the 40-60+ age bracket.

What is the electorate worried about in the event of a CORD win? Nothing for 48.1 per cent. But almost a quarter — 24.2 per cent — are worried about violence, another 10 per cent about insecurity and a further 7.6 per cent about evictions.

It is unclear whether they believe CORD will be the source of this violence, insecurity and evictions. But these are perceptions CORD needs to actively address.

What is the electorate worried about in the event of a Jubilee Alliance win? Nothing for 35.9 per cent — lower than with a CORD win.

But 23.1 per cent are worried about violence, another 10 per cent about insecurity and a further two per cent about evictions. No less than a fifth — at 20.7 per cent — are worried about international sanctions. Thus, the electorate is not unconcerned about the cases pending before the International Criminal Court.

The election may again be too close to call. But the pressure to obtain a first-round win is particularly high for the Jubilee Alliance.

The weight of managing that pressure falls on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. Is it truly prepared?

Will its Commissioners and staff have both the backbone and the capacity to manage this election?

We can hope for the best, but we must plan for the worst.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is doing her graduate studies at L’Institut d’etudes politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris, France