Kenyans voted on Tuesday to choose a successor to President Uhuru Kenyatta. The race is close and could go into a replay for the first time.
One of the leading candidates is Raila Odinga, an opposition leader in his fifth presidential run who is backed by his former rival Kenyatta. The other is William Ruto, Kenyatta’s deputy who had fallen out with the president earlier in their decade in power.
Both tend to focus more on domestic issues, raising the question of how to pursue Kenyatta’s diplomatic efforts for calm in neighboring Ethiopia or in the tensions between Rwanda and Congo.
What are the risks?
Kenya is the economic center of East Africa and is home to about 56 million people. The country has a recent history of turbulent elections. Even then, it has been characterized by its relative stability in a region where some elections are facing severe challenges, and long-standing leaders such as Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have been declared the winner with nearly 99% of the vote, or have been widely accused. Physically suppressing competitors.
Kenya does not have transparency in campaign donations or spending. It is estimated that some candidates for Parliament and other positions spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain access to power and its benefits, both legal and illegal.
What are the main candidate platforms?
The 55-year-old Ruto promotes himself to the young and poor as a “hustler” who grew up from humble beginnings as a chicken seller in contrast to the elite backgrounds of Kenyatta and Odinga. It seeks to increase agricultural productivity and financial inclusion. Agriculture is the main driver of the Kenyan economy and about 70% of the rural workforce is employed in agriculture.
Odinga, 77, notorious for being imprisoned while fighting for multi-party democracy decades ago, promised cash aid to Kenya’s poorest and most accessible healthcare.
What do voters care about?
Odinga and Ruto have remained aloft among the presidential contenders, and there is a modicum of apathy among Kenyans, especially younger Kenyans in a country where the average life expectancy is around 20. Hope, only 2.5 million.
Major issues in each election include endemic corruption and the economy. Kenyans have been hit by rising food and fuel prices in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and it comes after the financial struggle of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a third of the country’s youth are unemployed.
When will Kenya get a winner?
Official results will be announced within a week of voting. To win completely, a candidate needs more than half of the votes and at least 25% of the votes in more than half of Kenya’s 47 counties. No outright winner means a run-off will take place within 30 days.
The previous presidential election in 2017 made history when a Supreme Court annulled the results and ordered a new vote, the first of its kind in Africa. If the courts again call for a new vote, such an election will be held within 60 days of the ruling. Candidates or others have a week after the results are announced to file a petition with the court, which has two weeks to decide.