Voter turnout: Factors that will determine Kenya polls winner

Monday August 7 2017

Voters queue to cast ballot party primaries in

Voters queue to cast ballot party primaries in April 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By PETER MUNAITA
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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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7. VOTER TURNOUT

Over the past week there has been more focus on urging electors to turn out in full force on August 8.

This is informed by fears of voter apathy witnessed from the time of registration when the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) missed its registration target of six million new voters, managing less than four million. Politicians are already coming up with hilarious ways to ensure high voter turnout.

Mr Odinga has asked his followers to avoid sex on the eve, mobilisers in central Kenya want to have bars closed a day to the polls, while in Nairobi some have suggested public transporters bar voters from leaving where they are registered.

The stakes have risen higher because Infotrak and Ipsos opinion polls show the election will be won in the first round by the candidate who manages to convince the undecided and to sway the rival’s supporters. The Ipsos poll shows that five per cent of the respondents were undecided on who they would vote for.

This rises to seven per cent when those who refused to answer are taken into account. It is the regional distribution of these “undecideds” and those who will not vote that should be the focus of the leading presidential candidates.

Western leads with 15 per cent followed by eight per cent in Coast, seven per cent in Eastern, six per cent in Nyanza and Rift Valley and five per cent in Nairobi.

Only one per cent of respondents in Central and North Eastern fell in the two categories. Those who said they would not vote gave reasons like being away from polling station (24 per cent), fear of violence and victimisation (17 per cent), no confidence in IEBC and the electoral process (13 per cent), no desirable candidates (six per cent) and long queues (5 per cent).

It is arguable whether there are still any undecided voters or it is a case of people being guarded especially for those holding choices that run against the grain in their regions.

Voter turnout has grown progressively since the 2002 election to reach 70 per cent in the 2010 referendum and 86 per cent in the 2013 election.

In favour of a huge turnout is the fact that more than 90 per cent of the voters were in close proximity to their polling stations and the drop in the number of undecided to below five per cent in the latest polls.

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