A populist campaign anchored on the hustler narrative, support from vote-rich regions that won the last two elections and significant inroads in the turf of rivals helped Deputy President William Ruto win the presidency in the first attempt.
The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidate polled 7,176, 141 (50.49 per cent) to secure the 50 per cent plus one required to win the presidency in the first round, edging out his main rival, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition’s Raila Odinga who got 48.85 per cent of the vote.
The President-elect also secured at least 25 per cent of the votes in 39 counties – 15 more than the 24 counties required by the constitution – underlining the success of his campaign that targeted “those at the bottom of the pyramid”.
Dr Ruto succeeded to frame the contest as one between hustlers and dynasties through a campaign that transcended tribal affiliations and helped him limit the damage the narrative of Kikuyu-Kalenjin dominance at the helm would have had.
“I hereby declare that Ruto has been duly elected as the President of the Republic of Kenya,” Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati declared yesterday, as the President-elect and his spouse, Rachel, broke into broad smiles.
“I want to thank God for getting us to this point. I want to thank God that today we have concluded this election. I know there were predictions that I won’t get to the ballot, but because there is a God in heaven we are here,” said the President-elect who pledged not to seek vengeance against those who hounded him in an attempt to derail his presidential bid.
“This election was about issues, unlike the ethnic configurations that have characterised our elections. I am proud that the people of Kenya have raised the bar on us who are seeking leadership positions; not to sell ethnicity but our programmes,” he added, acknowledging voters had bought into his hustler nation manifesto.
Dr Ruto and his Deputy President designate Rigathi Gachagua were swept to power majorly by 17 counties that contributed nearly two-thirds of the total votes he secured to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
On the path to becoming the country’s fifth president, a remarkable fête for the man who made his debut in elective politics in 1997 as Eldoret North MP, Dr Ruto inherited the Mt Kenya and Rift Valley bastions that were crucial to their victory with President Kenyatta in 2013 and 2017, while also eating into his rival’s strongholds in Nyanza, Western and Coast.
The 10 Mt Kenya counties and the seven from the North Rift collectively handed him 4.5 million votes, which translated to 63 per cent of his total votes. Laikipia, Tharaka-Nithi, Murang’a, Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Embu, Meru and Nakuru collectively gave Dr Ruto nearly three million votes.
His main challenger, Mr Odinga, got 847,709 votes from Mt Kenya, which partly explains the close contest considering the ODM leader has performed poorly in the region in past elections.
With 2,938, 309 votes from the 10 Mt Kenya counties, Dr Ruto topped up with 1.6 million votes from seven North Rift counties.
Baringo, Bomet, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kericho, Nandi, West Pokot and Uasin Gishu collectively gave Dr Ruto 1, 602,807 votes.
Taken together, these two regions contributed 4, 541,116 to Dr Ruto’s national tally, according to an analysis of forms 34B posted on IEBC’s public portal.
Considering the voter turnout averaged 65.4 per cent, the lowest of the last two elections, the performance in these vote-rich counties by Dr Ruto compared to Mr Odinga, who netted one million votes in Mt Kenya and North Rift, gave him a head start.
But it is the inroads Dr Ruto made in Mr Odinga’s previous strongholds of Coast and Western that cemented his victory.
Dr Ruto saw his tally shoot up at the Coast from the 287,066 they recorded in 2017 to 324,353 as Mr Odinga’s tally in the region dropped from 801,031 in 2017 to 648,834.
Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance won governorships in Kwale (Fatuma Achani) and Lamu (Issa Timamy) in the just-concluded polls, and still has the support of outgoing governors Salim Mvurya of Kwale and Kilifi’s Amason Kingi of Pamoja African Alliance.
Former governors Hussein Dado (Tana River) and John Mruttu (Taita-Taveta) ran on Dr Ruto’s UDA but lost, the same fate that befell Aisha Jumwa in Kilifi.
Pollsters had in the run-up to the polls identified Tana River, Kwale and Lamu in Coast; Turkana, Samburu, Nakuru and West Pokot in North Rift; Narok and Kajiado in South Rift; and Bungoma and Trans Nzoia in Western Kenya as battlegrounds.
In Western, Dr Ruto garnered 629,552 votes, close to three times the 242,000 votes UhuRuto had in 2017.
In the election last week, Dr Ruto beat Mr Odinga in Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula’s Bungoma County, polling 255,907 against the Azimio boss’s 145,240.
In 2017, in the same county, Mr Odinga had 284,786 votes against UhuRuto’s 126,475. Dr Ruto had 116,372 against Mr Odinga’s 132,404 in Trans Nzoia, 131,857 against 357,860 in Kakamega, 67,631 against 114,717 in Vihiga, and 48,827 against 226,317 in Busia.
Dr Ruto’s victory, however, was marred by a split at the electoral commission.
This article was first published in the Daily Nation.