By Edward Waswa Kisiang’ani
With barely four months until the August 2022 General Election, political excitement in Kenya is at a fever pitch. In the public sphere, everybody is engaged in some form of dialogue about the forthcoming polls. At the heart of every political discourse you come across is this recurring matter of the Presidential race.
So far, the Presidential battle has been trimmed down to a riveting contest between Deputy President Dr. William Ruto and former prime minister – and now government candidate – Raila Odinga. Many people are asking the question, who between Ruto and Raila will win the Presidential duel in August? To answer this question effectively, one has to scrutinise the two politicians within the context of Uhuru Kenyatta’s second and last term as President of Kenya.
The first issue in determining who between Raila and Ruto could win the August polls is the Handshake Tragedy of March 9th, 2018. Months after the disputed 2017 Presidential elections, President Kenyatta stunned many people when he suddenly signed a peace agreement with Raila Odinga.
Christened the Building Bridges Initiative( BBI), the handshake peace pact between Kenyatta and Raila signalled the slow disintegration of the President’s Jubilee party. Through the handshake whip, Uhuru dumped his dependable Deputy and went ahead to invite Raila Odinga into government. Indeed, Mr. Odinga undertook to perform official duties constitutionally reserved for the Deputy President.
The President’s actions attracted widespread debate and criticism. In the public sphere, citizens questioned the legality of the President’s decisions. Kenyans also sought explanations for the sudden deterioration of relations between the President and his Deputy. Within the President’s Jubilee party, the initial shock was quickly replaced by hopelessness and despair.
By the end of 2018, the Presidency had offered no tangible explanations to justify President Kenyatta’s actions. Instead, supporters of the President embarked on a new project to portray, without giving perceptible evidence, DP Ruto as a thief! Ruto found himself in a cold room – isolated and abandoned. The Jubilee dream was dead. But the heartless isolation of Ruto from the government he had helped form, coupled with the unsubstantiated allegations about his integrity, quickly swung public opinion in his favour.
Increasingly, Ruto began to attract attention as a victim of political deceit, betrayal and deception. In the scheme of things, both Raila and Kenyatta were viewed as principal accomplices in a well–planned Machiavellian conspiracy to damage the political career of ‘innocent’ Ruto. This perception has not changed much.
Many people expected DP Ruto to break down and surrender. He did not. You have to credit the Deputy President for his bravery and strong spirit. Shortly, Dr. Ruto turned the humiliation he was then experiencing in government into a strategic political opportunity to rebrand himself away from the Jubilee Party. He thus assembled his troops around discontented Jubilee members and sympathisers from the general public to create a movement that has irreversibly changed the political terrain of Kenya. The next thing was the launch of the Hustler movement, which eventually sired the immensely popular United Democratic Alliance Party (UDA). This was quickly followed by the adoption of the Bottom-up economic strategy that captured the imagination of millions of Kenyans.
Closely linked to the handshake issue is the controversial question of constitutional reforms. Although the President had explained that his handshake deal with Raila Odinga was limited mainly to uniting all Kenyans, the contrary proved to be the case. By 2018, the handshake project had morphed into a government venture to undertake fundamental changes in the Constitution. It was also converted into a platform to assist Raila in succeeding Uhuru.
To achieve this objective, both the President and Mr. Odinga selected close friends to drive the BBI process. Without proper public participation, the handshake team crafted strange constitutional proposals to be subjected to a national referendum.
Among other things, the Handshake team recommended constitutional changes that would have empowered the Executive arm of government to control the Judiciary through the office of the Judicial Ombudsman. The BBI protagonists proposed changes in the Supreme Law to authorise the Executive to appoint to Cabinet elected members of the Legislature. It was a blatant attempt by the Executive to invade the private
space of Parliament.
To many, the BBI proposals represented a brutal affront to Kenya’s liberal constitutional order. If passed, the proposals would have permitted the Executive to torpedo the Doctrine of Separation of Powers and undermine the Principle of Checks and Balances. The consequence of these proposals was the inevitable creation of a totalitarian political practice and an imperial Presidency in Kenya. The puzzle Kenyans are yet to unravel is how Raila Odinga – a man who spent most of his life fighting for liberal democracy – was lured into a snare to support the entrenchment of totalitarian politics in our country. Maybe that is what the thirst for power can do to great people!
At the height of official campaigns to change the Constitution, Dr. William Ruto declined to support legal reforms that would have taken the country back to the dungeons of intolerance and dictatorship. Ruto’s decision to defend the Constitution pushed his popularity to new levels. Instantly, DP Ruto joined the list of our national heroes. This must count for something special for voters who will troop to the polls in August.
Equally critical in determining the winner of the August polls is the campaign platform each presidential candidate will run on. While Raila Odinga is running on a unity platform, Wiliam Ruto has constructed his campaign around the Bottom-up economic policy.
Although Odinga’s call for a united country is a noble idea, unity should never be an end in itself. Kenya cannot unite to change the Constitution to create positions for influential political individuals. Besides, you cannot unite a nation that is a quarter rich and three-quarters poor! Common sense dictates that unity is only feasible when you initiate socio-economic programs that target to narrow the gap between the poor and the rich. Mr. Odinga’s idea of a working economy is based on the erroneous assumption that the state can successfully combat poverty by printing money and distributing six thousand shillings to every vulnerable individual every month!
Giving people money they have not worked for promotes laziness. Furthermore, pumping money into an economy whose productive capacity is shrinking only increases inflation. What many unemployed youth and adults need is not free money – they need jobs and government support to create jobs. Ruto gets it; Raila doesn’t!
Dr. Ruto’s Bottom-up economic strategy is revolutionary. The framework gives everyone in this country a chance to take a fresh look at the sixty-year old trickle-down economic model, which assumes that when few people at the top of the economic pyramid are enabled to create wealth, their benefits will trickle down to those who are stuck at the base. The Kenyan experience demonstrates the trickle-down approach does not work. Instead, this model is known to enhance poverty and misery to those at the lower end of the social pyramid.
Through Ruto’s Bottom-up economic framework, millions of Kenyan hustlers trapped at the bottom of the social-economic pyramid will get a real opportunity to climb up the ladder and graduate from ‘things’ to respectable human beings. The program proposes to inject over Ksh.100 billion to increase the production of goods, enhance value addition to the goods produced and create markets for the final products.
The Bottom-up strategy aims to put money in small businesses; it strives to end the criminalization of enterprise. The Bottom-up economic program targets groups of people to lift from misery, including the unemployed youth, small business people, women, farmers, and artisans. The cumulative effect of empowering people at the pyramid base is increased revenue collection and reduced external borrowing. Ruto’s revolutionary agenda will carry the day in August.
Beyond the economic program, the winner of the Presidential polls will be determined by a candidate who commands support in regions that have a high concentration of voters. According to the latest figures from the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Rift Valley counties have a cumulative voter density of over 5.3 million.
Who, between Raila Odinga and William Ruto, will take this vote?
Assuming the voter turnout in the region is roughly 80 percent, there will be 4,275,373 active electors in Ruto’s stronghold. In the 2017 presidential polls, the Uhuruto ticket garnered 66 percent of the votes in this region as opposed to Raila’s 27 percent. Barring any last-minute surprises, Dr. Ruto will sweep over 80 percent (3,420,298) of the Rift Valley ballot in 2022. This leaves Raila Odinga with less than 20 percent (855,074) of the region vote to fight for.
The total number of registered voters stands at about 3.1 million in the Nyanza region – Raila’s stronghold. With a turnout rate of 80 percent, Nyanza will have 2,465, 584 active voters. In 2017, Mr. Odinga got 76 percent of the Nyanza
vote against Uhuru’s 13.7 percent. If we give him 80 percent of the regional ballot, he will take home 1,972,467 votes, compared to Ruto’s 20 percent (493,116).
What about the Mount Kenya Region? Considering the region has a cumulative vote of 4.5 million, an 80 percent voter turnout gives us a figure of 3,606,248 to work with. Current trends in the region signify an overwhelming Ruto win. Apart from rejecting Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to support Raila Odinga, Mt. Kenya voters appear unhappy with the government’s inability to curb the worsening economic situation in the area. Everybody you talk to – vegetable and fruit vendors, farmers, business people, public transport operators and artisans – seems to raise a complaint or two about the Uhuru administration.
Unfortunately for Raila, the Mount Kenya voters seem to be persuaded, DP Ruto’s Bottom-up economic approach would tackle the region’s problems. In 2017, the Mt. Kenya counties gave Uhuru 94 percent of the votes. In my estimation, DP will comfortably win 75 percent (or 2,704,686) of the Mount Kenya ballot in 2022. Raila Odinga should be happy to take home 20 percent (721, 249,) of the Gikuyu, Meru and Embu (GEMA) vote.
In Western Kenya, Raila’s Popularity has been waning. In 2017, Raila Odinga got 82 percent of the total vote compared to 15 percent for the Uhuruto ticket. Can he repeat the same feat in 2022? No way. As things stand now, Mr. Odinga has already lost the populous county of Bungoma and is gasping for breath in Kakamega.
Over the past three years, DP Ruto has made significant inroads in the Western region. The Deputy President recently strengthened his rating by embracing two former critics from the region – the Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya Party Chief, Moses Wetang’ula. The trio has formed the Kenya (KK) Kwanza super alliance
to face Mr. Odinga.
Currently, the total number of voters in the Western counties stands at 2.1 million. A voter turnout of 80 percent in the region translates into 1,757,356 active electors. In my estimation, the Western enclave will narrowly favour Raila Odinga with 54 percent (948,972) against Rutos’s 46 percent (808,383).
At the Coast, DP Ruto and Mr. Odinga will be fighting to control over 1.9 million votes. Again, working with the 80 percent criterion, 1,562,022 active coastal voters will be involved in August. In 2017, the Uhuruto ticket got 31.6 percent of the votes compared to Raila’s 66 percent. Considering the amount of work DP Ruto has already done in the region, Raila’s margins will decrease to 51 percent ( about 796,631) to Ruto’s 46 percent( about 718,530).
In the Northern counties (Isiolo, Garissa, Mandera, Marsabit, Moyale, and Wajir), Ruto will most likely carry the day. The present voter registration status is 866,006. The 80 percent conversation leaves us with 692,804 electors to consider. In 2017, the Uhuruto duo garnered 63 percent of the total vote as opposed to Raila’s 30 percent. In 2022, Ruto is projected to get 65 percent( 450,322) of the votes to 35 percent (303,102) for Raila.
The counties of the Kamba region – Kitui, Machakos and Makueni – have a total vote count of 1,697,003). Out of this number only,1,357,602 – representing 80 percent of the total tally – might be involved. In 2017, Raila got 83 percent of the total vote opposed to 14.3 percent for Uhuruto. Considering the numerous campaign rallies Ruto has already conducted in this area, the Deputy President will get 40 percent (543,040) compared to Raila’s 60 percent (814,561).
Without a doubt, we will witness the most bruising battle between the two candidates in Nairobi. The capital city has 2,505,190 registered voters. If Nairobi records a voter turnout of 80 percent, then only 2,604,152 voters will be active. In 2017, the Uhuruto duo got 48.5 percent of the vote compared to 50.85 for Raila. Will the situation change much in 2022? I don’t think so. It is crucial to note that most Nairobi voters have a rural ancestry. Often, they vote with this variable in mind, and 2022 will not be an exception.
Besides, nobody can wish away the ethnic factor in Nairobi politics. As it appears now, the Kamba, Luo, and Kisii voters in Nairobi might go with Raila. But the Northern groups, the Mt. Kenya electors, the Luhyia and Rift Valley voters will support DP Ruto. Consequently, Ruto will most likely take a narrow lead in Nairobi with 52 percent (1,354,159) compared to
Raila’s 48 percent(1,249,992).
The number of registered voters in Kenya now stands at about 22 million. The 80 percent percent voter turnout gives us about 18 million active electors. DP Ruto will get 10.4 million voters from the above calculations, representing 57.7 percent of the total against Raila Odinga’s 7.6 million ballots representing 41.9 percent.
While retaining his grip on both the Rift Valley and the Mount Kenya region, Ruto will significantly improve Western, at the Coast, Northern Kenya, and the Ukambani zone. On his part, Raila Odinga will still control the Nyanza vote but lose significant percentages in Nairobi, at the Coast, Ukambani, and Western.
Over time, Ruto has demonstrated unmatched political brilliance, foresight, and organisational competence. Without a doubt, the Deputy President is the complete opposite of Raila Odinga. Ruto has a considerable following within the country’s religious fraternity. He is also driven by humility and kindness.
Dr. Ruto is not only generous, but he is also always happy to share meals with people from varied social backgrounds. In addition, the man is a shrewd businessman, an impeccable public speaker, and a creative thinker. These things matter in politics. Come August, Ruto is the favourite candidate to win the Presidential race. The gods are on his side. (
— The author teaches Political History and Economy at Kenyatta University