Personality and character: Factors that will determine Kenya polls winner

Sunday August 06 2017

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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Alluded to in the 2022 factor, the personalities of the two contestants will have some influence on the poll outcome.

Both are children of privilege, scions of the political dynasties that have shaped Kenyan politics since the fight for independence, and have been entrusted with leadership by their communities.

Their fathers, founding president Jomo Kenyatta and vice president Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, fought many ideological battles culminating in the isolation of the latter, detention even, until the onset of multiparty democracy in the early 1990s. Similar tribulations befell Mr Odinga who was a prominent face of the fight for multipartyism.

Such history can cut both ways and the two have on several occasions been forced to deny claims of polarising the country to fight their long-standing family feud.

Away from the public eye, the two are said to be good friends who exchange family visits and stand by each other in times of distress.

But their personalities are quite different. Besides the age difference between them, Mr Kenyatta comes out as an easy-going person who is at home with both the mighty and the down-trodden while Mr Odinga appears as a more reserved personality who warms up to people as they get along.

On the dais, Mr Odinga is unlikely to dance too enthusiastically to music; only betraying his deep feelings with facial and hand gestures. His lighter side comes out when he uses football as an analogy for politics and is a master of asides.

This is the personality of Mr Odinga that came out during the presidential debate when he defended President Kenyatta on allegations that the two of them were holding the country to ransom. He would have attacked the president who snubbed the debate but chose to remain a gentleman.

President Kenyatta lets his emotions show, elated one moment and quite cross the other, when he is not averse to expletives. Mr Odinga also defended the language the two leaders use in political rallies, especially when describing their rivals saying they were just figures of speech to send messages home rather than attacks on personalities.

Will these personalities influence the election outcome? Maybe the perceptions around them with regard to who would be more decisive in confronting the bread and butter issues facing Kenya.

The Ipsos Poll showed that 70 per cent of the respondents had a measure of confidence in President Kenyatta against 64 per cent for Mr Odinga.

When it came to leadership, 17 per cent of those who believed the country was going in the right direction attributed it to leadership.

In contrast 12 per cent of those who were not happy with the country’s direction blamed it on his leadership. Overall, respondents wanted a decisive president as more than half of those for or against the incumbent indicated leadership was the key factor in determining the country’s progress.


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