Aleading Kenyan elections observer breaks down Kenya’s elections into two main types. On one side we have the ‘pata potea’ (gamble. throw of the dice) type, where the aspirant simply announces that they are running for a particular public office and then they go on to print posters, hold campaign rallies, attend public events, ask for votes and hope to win.
In 2013 Cord ran a ‘pata potea’ campaign because Raila Odinga was a sure-win larger-than-life Presidential candidate. He was also an incumbent, having served a whole term as Prime Minister and co-principal to President Mwai Kibaki. Unfortunately, ‘pata potea’ campaigns do not put too much emphasis on strategic action.
In Raila’s case, whenever his campaign secretariat came up with strategic campaign ideas, they would be shot down by allies and family members who felt the secretariat was wasting resources and time on an election that had already been won. National political action teams like ODM-Reloaded and ODM-Mashinani that focused on specific demographics were undermined.
2013 was expected to be an easy win, so the focus was on posters, campaign rallies and public events. On the other side we have the Strategic Election Planning (SEP) type; well-coordinated campaigns that use demographic data, groundbased social media networks and strategic campaign infrastructure. SEP campaigns are run by the under-dogs; those who do not expect to win; at least not easily.
The SEP campaign is what Barack Obama run in 2008, both against Hillary Clinton with the Democratic Party, and against Republican Candidate John McCain in the main election. An SEP campaign is also what put Jubilee in State House in 2013. The odds were against them, especially because their candidates had international criminal indictments hanging over them. So they run an SEP campaign.
They looked for the numbers needed to win and ensured that these numbers got registered. This is where the ‘Tyranny of Numbers’ came from. Jubilee then ensured they got out the vote on Election Day. Jubilee must expect an SEP campaign from Cord, at worst, one that would make Cord a lot more organised.
This means that for Jubilee to retain State House they must run a better SEP campaign than Cord. This requires Jubilee to start planning earlier, avoid getting caught up in incumbency obligations, and work harder than they did in 2013. A good place to start is reaching out to Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign team.