With the election campaigns in Kenya having entered the homestretch, President Uhuru Kenyatta has once again stepped out to the front line to try to swing the August 9 vote in favour of his preferred successor, Raila Odinga.
President Kenyatta has in the past week taken advantage of official development project inspection tours in Nairobi, Laikipia and Samburu to drum up support for Mr Odinga, saying the 77-year-old opposition leader had the qualities needed to take the country forward.
Many more such tours have been lined up in the coming weeks, as the President serves out his final constitutional term in office.
He has been keen to play up the reformist credentials of Mr Odinga’s running mate Martha Karua, saying she will ruthlessly deal with corruption in government.
Ms Karua, a surprise nominee to the Kenyatta-backed Azimio La Umoja One Kenya coalition ticket, is also being seen as a possible successor to the President in Mt Kenya region to try to neutralise the popularity of Deputy President William Ruto there.
Dr Ruto, who is Mr Odinga’s main rival in the race to succeed President Kenyatta, enjoys a large following in Mt Kenya, the single-largest voting bloc, due to the absence of a credible candidate from the region and long-standing ethnically instigated anti-Odinga sentiment there.
But pollsters predict a close race between the two candidates nationally, with Mr Odinga having a slight edge.
A candidate needs to garner 50 percent-plus one of the total votes cast and 25 percent of the votes in 24 out of the country’s 47 counties to be declared the winner.
Projections suggest that either of the two candidates will need between 8.63 million and 9.6 million of the 22,120,458 registered voters to cast their ballots for him to win the race going by the voter turnouts in the 2017 and 2013 elections.
Each candidate is in the next three weeks expected to step up campaigns in their political strongholds and a number of counties identified as battlegrounds in a bid to mobilise huge turnouts and to try to flip more counties to his side. With the race tightly poised, the tone of campaigns has in recent days got a little more toxic.
The tone was set by a public spat between President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto over a leaked audio recording in which the latter is heard saying he almost slapped his boss in the hours following the nullification of their re-election victory by the Supreme Court in September 2017.
The politics around the Kenyatta succession is dominated by his falling out with Dr Ruto and the unlikely endorsement of Mr Odinga. Dr Ruto initially blamed Mr Odinga’s deal with the President, popular as the Handshake, and the involvement the so-called ‘Deep State’ in a scheme to influence the succession for their broken relationship.