Kenya Election 2022: Candidates, Issues at Stake

Okenya heads to the polls Tuesday to pick out the nation’s new president amid hovering meals and gas costs, a crippling drought and, crucially, considerations over whether or not the vote shall be free, honest and peaceable.

Issues are notably excessive over how the Impartial Electoral and Boundaries Fee, which is accountable for working Kenya’s elections, manages the method. “They haven’t been wherever close to skilled,” says Ken Opalo, an assistant professor at Georgetown College’s College of International Service. This yr will function the primary main check for Kenya’s electoral system for the reason that chaotic 2017 election.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. till 5 p.m. native time and the race stays too near name. The electoral fee can take as much as seven days to tabulate the votes. If no candidate wins an absolute majority, there shall be a run-off vote, which has by no means occurred earlier than.

Who’re the candidates working for President of Kenya?

4 candidates are within the working, and the favorites are veteran opposition chief Raila Odinga, 77, and present Deputy President William Ruto, 55. President Uhuru Kenyatta, 60, can’t run for a 3rd time due to time period limits.

Odinga, of the center-left Orange Democratic Motion, is working for president for the fifth time and acknowledged that this run shall be his final. He’s contesting below an uneasy Azimio La Umoja Alliance, which incorporates the right-wing Jubilee Celebration led by the present president. He’s the son of the nation’s first vice-president and served a number of years in jail as a political prisoner within the Nineteen Eighties and early Nineties.

One in all Odinga’s key coverage proposals is a social welfare program during which he’s promising to ship 6,000 Kenyan shillings ($50) a month to the nation’s neediest households. It might considerably enhance the amount of money help given to households by an present welfare program. He has additionally promised to arrange common well being care by a program referred to as Babacare.

Ruto, of the center-right United Democratic Alliance, has tried to painting himself throughout campaigns as on the aspect of the poor and youth, even coining the phrase “hustler nation”—a nod to his personal humble beginnings as a rooster vendor as a youngster. He was an agriculture minister earlier than changing into Deputy President in 2013 and is taken into account one of many nation’s largest maize farmers. He and Kenyatta had been slapped with fees by the Worldwide Felony Court docket associated to post-election ethnic violence following the 2007 race, which had been later dropped for each people. The ICC cited inadequate proof however refused to acquit both Kenyatta and Ruto.

Kenya’s Deputy President and presidential candidate William Ruto delivers a speech on the ultimate day of campaigning on the Nyayo Nationwide Stadium in Nairobi on Aug. 6, 2022, forward of Kenya’s basic election on Aug. 9.

Simon Maina—AFP through Getty Photographs

Ruto is targeted particularly on increasing entry to credit score for the casual sector, which incorporates small- and medium-sized companies which were hardest hit by the financial disaster.

Different presidential candidates embody the wild-card George Wajackoyah, a professor and lawyer, and David Mwaure Waihiga, additionally a lawyer. Wajackoyah, who was taken in by Hare Krishna worshipers after being homeless as a baby, has sparked a debate over the legalization of marijuana—one of many insurance policies he has been vocal about on the marketing campaign path. Waihiga can also be an ordained reverend and has proposed chopping revenue tax by half.

What are the main points at stake in Kenya’s election?

“Prime of thoughts for Kenyans taking a look at these elections is the price of dwelling disaster,” says Fergus Kell, a analysis analyst who research Kenya at Chatham Home. “There’s an actual squeeze on abnormal Kenyans,” he provides. In latest months, inflation has shot as much as as excessive as 8.3% and the warfare in Ukraine has contributed to lengthy strains at petrol stations and a rise in the price of important meals equivalent to maize flour and cooking oil.

In keeping with the U.N., Kenya can also be coping with its worst drought in additional than 4 a long time. That has wreaked havoc particularly on herding communities when it comes to meals insecurity and mortality.

Learn Extra: How Kenya Copes with 1000’s of Displaced Local weather Migrants

For probably the most half, “points in Kenya have remained fixed over the previous couple of elections and the get together manifestos are virtually the identical: struggle corruption, uplift individuals from poverty,” says Gilbert Khadiagala, a professor of worldwide relations on the College of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. What typically turns into a deciding issue is voter allegiance to their ethnic teams, he provides.

Neither Odinga nor Ruto belong to the nation’s largest ethnic group, Kikuyus, however each have chosen a Kikuyu particular person to be their potential Deputy President. Odinga has tapped Martha Karua, a former justice minister, as his working mate—and if she wins, she would additionally develop into Kenya’s first feminine Deputy President. Ruto, for his half, has focused a lot of his campaigning efforts in direction of successful over the Kikuyus and has made headway, regardless of opposition from Kenyatta, who’s a part of the group. “Inside Kenyatta’s ethnic base, Odinga is definitely shedding to Ruto however Kenyatta has been helpful for Odinga in serving to craft a nationwide coalition,” says Georgetown’s Opalo. “With out Kenyatta’s help, Odinga wouldn’t have been in a position to construct the broad nationwide coalition that he’s been in a position to put collectively.”

Kenya’s historical past of turbulent elections

In 2017, Kenya’s preliminary election outcomes—which noticed Kenyatta win 54% to Odinga’s 45% in August— had been nullified by the Supreme Court docket and a brand new vote was ordered due to irregularities within the course of. (The court docket mentioned the preliminary vote was “not performed in accordance with the structure.”) The voting system didn’t electronically transmit outcomes from each station in a well timed method. Attorneys for Odinga efficiently argued this opened the door for potential vote tampering. (Worldwide displays had mentioned the election was honest.) Odinga boycotted the re-run in October, which noticed Kenyatta collect 98% of that vote.

The 2017 election was additionally marred by allegations of police impunity. Human Rights Watch mentioned on Aug. 1 that it feared the failure of Kenyan authorities to handle previous abuses by police might heighten the danger of impunity round this yr’s election, notably if the outcomes are disputed. Following the 2017 elections, Human Rights Watch and different teams documented 104 killings by police and armed gangs, with most victims being supporters of the primary opposition get together on the time.

And in December 2007, after President Mwai Kibaki of the right-wing Celebration of Nationwide Unity was declared winner of that yr’s presidential election towards Odinga, a dispute over Kibaki’s reelection led to weeks of violence alongside ethnic strains. At the very least 1,000 individuals died and greater than 300,000 fled their houses. The Kikuyu, of which Kibaki hails, had been the preliminary targets of violence following voting irregularities and allegations of fraud. However reprisal killings, notably within the Rift Valley, rapidly adopted. Kenya enacted a brand new structure in 2010 in response to the 2007-2008 disaster, ensuing within the subsequent decentralization of energy by the creation of 47 native county governments.

Violence for the reason that 2007 elections has gave the impression to be extra localized and on a smaller scale, specialists say.

The present President’s shifting loyalties

A novel issue of this presidential race is the present President’s tussle along with his Deputy President Ruto and backing of opposition candidate Odinga.

“That is an epic election within the sense that the outgoing President has taken a stand towards his Deputy President and supported an opposition candidate,” says Witwatersrand’s Khadiagala.

Kenya’s president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta (L) along with his working mate William Ruto maintain up certificates of election on Oct. 30, 2017 on the nationwide tallying middle at Bomas of Kenya, the place they had been introduced winners of a repeat presidential ballot by the Impartial Electoral and Boundaries Fee chairman. Kenyatta was declared victor of the nation’s deeply divisive elections on Oct. 30, taking 98 % of the ballots solid in a ballot boycotted by his rival Raila Odinga.

Tony Karumba—AFP through Getty Photographs

In 2018, Kenyatta and Odinga stunned the nation by reconciling in a second Kenyans check with as “the handshake”; they developed a relationship and labored collectively on the Constructing Bridges Initiative, which goals to develop the chief department’s powers, amongst different measures. However Kenya’s Supreme Court docket in March declared that their proposed modifications had been unlawful.

Their partnership was made doable by the truth that Kenyatta and Ruto’s erstwhile alliance was from the outset “form of a wedding of comfort,” Kell says. They had been each dealing with fees on the ICC associated to the post-election violence of 2007-2008.

Tensions between Kenyatta and Ruto ratcheted up lately; the Deputy President hasn’t been sitting in some cupboard conferences, Kell says, and finally cut up off from the Jubilee Celebration he shaped with Kenyatta in 2013.

However whichever approach Kenyans solid their ballots on Tuesday, this shall be a vote involving a number of firsts. It’s the primary time for the reason that nation started its transition in 1992 in direction of democracy that there aren’t any main Kikuyu candidates. And Kikuyu opinion stays divided on each frontrunners. “The outcomes may have some vital ethnic focus of votes in direction of the 2 main candidates,” says Georgetown’s Opalo. “However that shouldn’t take away from the truth that this time round ethnicity has not been as entrance and middle because it was once.”

Kell agrees. “Personalities have come by in campaigning extra so than ethnic id,” he says.

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