What to expect in this year’s most competitive elections

When presiding over his last Madaraka (internal self-rule) Day celebration on 1 June, President Uhuru Kenyatta breached protocol by barring his deputy from addressing the crowd as is normally the case during national events.

Kenyatta even avoided mentioning the names of  other top politicians who were present, including former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi.

The radical decision caught many by surprise, with the president’s close allies insisting he did not want his last national function as the head of state to be overshadowed by election politics, hence the reason why he neither gave Ruto nor Raila a chance to address the crowd. Ruto and Raila are involved in a fierce political battle to succeed Kenyatta, whose term comes to an end this year.

“There is no written law that the deputy president must be allowed to speak at national functions. It was the president’s last Madaraka day celebration [and] he did not want it to be politicised in the presence of the President of Sierra Leone, Julius Bio, who was our guest,” says Peter Munya, the cabinet secretary for agriculture and a close ally of Kenyatta.

Competitive politics

The president’s action is proof that the stakes are too high in this year’s election and can only be compared to that of the disputed 2007 plebiscite that plunged the country into violence, leaving more than 1000 people dead.

It is also a unique election given the fact that it is the first one to be held in an environment where a sitting president and his deputy do not see eye to eye.

Under the new constitution, the president and his deputy are elected under a joint ticket hence the former has no powers to sack the latter as was the case under the old order.

Emboldened by the new constitutional order, Ruto has openly defied his boss, blaming him and his handshake partner Raila for all the socio-economic mess bedevilling the country, while taking credit for the achievements made by the outgoing government.

The deputy president has even managed to instigate descent against the head of state in his Mt Kenya backyard, resulting in mass exodus of area legislators from the ruling Jubilee party to Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

“President Kenyatta betrayed Ruto by supporting his fierce rival [Raila] Odinga and that is why many of us abandoned the Jubilee party. We decided that we are going to keep the promise we made in 2017 to support Ruto for president in the 2022 general election,” says Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, one of the Mt Kenya legislators who abandoned Jubilee for UDA.

Politics of betrayal

Kenyatta’s allies however term their colleagues as betrayers who are thankless for the help they received from the head of state.

“These rebels actually won their parliamentary seats in 2017 by riding on President Kenyatta’s popularity. They are in fact the real betrayers,” says Kieni MP Kanini Kega, an ally of Kenyatta.

President Kenyatta betrayed Ruto by supporting his fierce rival [Raila] Odinga and that is why many of us abandoned the Jubilee party

It is also the first time the populous Mt Kenya will not be fielding a strong presidential candidate since the advent of pluralism in 1991 making it a swing-vote region.

So important is the region that the two top candidates – Ruto and Raila – nominated persons from Mt Kenya as running mates to attract the 5-million plus registered voters. Ruto nominated Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua while Raila settled on former Justice Minister Martha Karua.

Both Ruto and Raila have crafted formidable coalitions attracting nationwide support. Raila’s Azimio coalition comprises 29 political parties while the deputy president’s Kenya Kwanza alliance has 12.

Though 47 Kenyans had expressed interest for the top seat, only four met the stringent election requirements. Apart from Ruto and Raila, the other two are Prof George Wajackoyah of Roots party and David Waihiga of Agano party.

It is not only the country’s chief executive that Kenyans will be electing on 9 August, but also 290 MPs, 47 governors, 47 senators, 47 women representatives and 1450 members of county assemblies.

82 political parties

A total of 82 political parties will participate in the elections, after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) approved their nomination rules.

However, due to the shambolic party nominations, a record number have opted to run as independent candidates making the competition for elective seats even more fierce.

According to the IEBC, more than 5,000 individuals will vie for various elective seats as independent candidates, with county assembly posts attracting the highest number.

“This year’s election will see the highest number of independent candidates winning various seats due to the poor party nominations conducted by both Azimio and Kenya Kwanza coalitions,” says John Charo, a political analyst.

The official two-month campaign period, which kicked off on 29 May is expected to end on 6 August, two days before the general election.

Like past elections, issues dominating campaign rallies are the high cost of living, youth unemployment,  access to quality healthcare and education, corruption, equitable share of resources and insecurity.

Ambitious promises

The two top contenders have made ambitious promises, which political analysts argue will be hard to implement given the poor state of the economy and the rising public debt.

Both Ruto and Raila, for example, have promised double-digit economic growth, free education and healthcare, new industries in every county and a  multi-million kitty for women and youth among others.

“Voters should be careful not to take everything politicians say as gospel truth because some of the promises are hollow and are only meant to attract votes,” says Githinji Kariuki, a tax expert.

Promises aside, concerns linger as to whether the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is fully prepared to conduct free and fair elections.

Early this month, nine civil society organisations wrote to the IEBC, highlighting 10 areas that could compromise the elections.

If the voter’s register is not thoroughly cleaned then I fear we might end up with a disputed election

The organisations alleged massive inefficiencies, negligence and outright corruption in the IEBC’s procurement and other electoral management operations.

An audit conducted by the consultancy firm KPMG red flagged issues in the voter register that the IEBC must address to win public confidence, which has remained low since the bungled 2017 presidential election.

According to the audit, out of the 22,152,441 registered voters, 246,465 are dead, 481,711 have duplicated records, 226,143 have false identity, 164,269 have invalid identifications, bringing the total number of red flagged cases to 1,118,588.

“If the voter’s register is not thoroughly cleaned then I fear we might end up with a disputed election, IEBC must take the KPMG audit report very seriously,” says Charo.

Chief Justice Martha Koome has also urged the IEBC to show proof that it has addressed integrity issues that led to the nullification of the 2017 presidential election.

“Failure to demonstrate the same could have serious implications in the integrity of this year’s elections.”

Key dates in the run-up to Kenya’s 2022 general election:

  1. January 20, 2022 – Gazetted date of 2022 General Election, August 9
  2. February 19, 2022 – Resignation deadline for State officers intending to vie
  3. April 9, 2022 – Deadline for submission of party membership lists to IEBC
  4. April 22, 2022 – Deadline for party primaries
  5. May 2, 2022 – Deadline for independent candidates to join parties, submit names and symbols
  6. May 13, 2022 – Gazetted independent candidates’ names and symbols
  7. May 23, 2022 – Deadline to submit statutory requirements for Presidential Election candidates (both political party sponsored and independent candidates)
  8. May 29, 2022 – Start of the official campaign period
  9. June 1, 2022 – IEBC registers governor and county woman representative candidates
    • June 2, 2022 – Deadline for verification of voters’ register
    • June 7, 2022 – Ballot proofreading
    • June 9, 2022 – Deadline for resolution of nomination disputes
    • June 20, 2022 – IEBC publishes a complete list of all registered candidates
  10. July 25, 2022 – Deadline for parties and candidates to submit names of their National and Constituency Chief Election Agents
  11. August 6, 2022 – End of the official campaign period
  12. August 9, 2022 – Election Day

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