Campaign strategy: Factors that will determine Kenya polls winner

Monday August 7 2017

Second, manifestos are predictive and prescriptive of change.

Left: Nasa leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the coalition's manifesto; and right, President Uhuru Kenyatta launching the Jubilee Party manifesto. PHOTOS | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Kenyans go to the polls on Tuesday, August 8, to choose their next crop of leaders for various elective posts.

The presidential election is billed as one of the most tightly contested in the country’s electoral history, with the most recent opinion polls showing a 1-3 percentage gap between the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party and Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance.

While the cost of living, unemployment, corruption, security and free public services are key issues having an impact on the lives of Kenyans, the ultimate winner will be determined by a motley of factors. The EastAfrican's Peter Munaita lists the top ten.


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The Jubilee campaign strategy is quite basic — continuity, while that of Nasa is a call for reforms as envisaged in the 2010 Constitution to take more resources to the people (devolution) and enhance governance. Those pillars explain why President Kenyatta is focused on promises fulfilled, work in progress and more promises.

Musician Ben Githae’s political mobilisation song Tano Tena (another five years) captures the continuity theme. Nasa on the other hand has been resolute in pushing for electoral reforms, preventing rigging and promising better utilisation and distribution of state resources.

Along the way it has exploited opportunities, such as incidents of insecurity, corruption and rising cost of living, to send its message of official incompetence home.

Jubilee has had a rougher road selling its development record than it would have expected, largely because of missed targets especially in the food, employment and digital education sectors, as well as corruption tags on some of the projects.

Despite its campaign theme song Mambo Yabadilika (Kiswahili for things are changing) by gospel musician Hellena Ken, Nasa has been careful with its message of change for two reasons.

For one, its principals have all served in senior government positions in the past and their association with change has been made fun of in rival rallies.

That message, however, is made credible by Mr Odinga who has come to embody the fight against excesses in successive regimes in Kenya, notably when he was Prime Minister in the Coalition government.

Secondly, a bold call for change has become the sacrificial lamb for peace since the 2007 post-election violence and, with the electorate seemingly still traumatised, such an approach is viewed as a recipe for chaos.

Churches and lobby groups, the most notable led by Rachel Ruto, wife of the Deputy President, are going around the country preaching peace and praying for unity during the electioneering period. These two factors and Jubilees failures have yielded a campaign quite low on issues and big on drama.

In the Ipsos poll released last month, more than a fifth (22 per cent) of registered voters who said they would not be casting their ballots gave no reason for their decision or just said there were no desirable candidates. Overall, one in every 50 people (about 392,000 of the 19.61 million registered voters) said they would not vote.

The voting intentions were strongest in Nyanza (95 per cent), Central (93 per cent), Rift Valley (92 per cent), Coast and Nairobi (both 90 per cent).

They dipped to 85 per cent in Western, 78 per cent in Eastern and 76 per cent in North Eastern. By party loyalties 98 per cent Jubilee supporters said they were certain or likely to vote against 97 per cent for Nasa, making for quite a tight call.

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