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September 22, 2018

Is Cord taking too long to decide on presidential candidate?

Opposition leaders led by Odm's Raila Odinga, Wipers Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC's Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya's Moses Wetangula during an opposition meeting at the Bomas of Kenya. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
Opposition leaders led by Odm's Raila Odinga, Wipers Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC's Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya's Moses Wetangula during an opposition meeting at the Bomas of Kenya. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

One of the most fiercely debated aspects of Kenyan opinion polls at a time like this is whether or not surveys published prior to the final three months before a general election are of any value.

Taking, for example, the current election cycle, the point in contention is this: How can we really know the extent of President Uhuru Kenyatta's popularity when we do not know yet who his principal rival will be?

For depending on who will eventually face him – as the candidate supported by the united opposition – he may find it even easier than expected to win reelection, especially if the opposition National Super Alliance breaks up over the selection of that single presidential candidate.

Or it may turn out the opposition candidate proves to be precisely that leader best-placed to make Uhuru a one-term President – a candidate who not only unites the opposition strongholds, but also proves to be appealing even to some of the voters currently assumed to be safely in Uhuru's corner.

A lot of the trouble that comes to us with general elections can in fact be traced to the fact that the final results are often quite different from what the opinion polls had led us to expect some eight or so months earlier.

A year before the 2013 election, for example, the then PM Raila Odinga led all his potential rivals by a really wide margin in virtually all the polls. This later made it impossible for Raila's supporters to believe that he could have lost fairly on Election Day.

But what was overlooked was that none of those much-earlier polls had anticipated an Uhuru Kenyatta/William Ruto ticket, which proved to be a game-changer.

As concerns the election we will have later this year, it should be no surprise to see Uhuru leading in each and every opinion poll at this point in time. We do not know as yet who his principal rival will be.

And therein lies a problem for NASA.

If the opposition makes an early nomination of a presidential candidate, they will give the President's Jubilee Party an immediate target to focus on, with all the vast resources available to the government.

If NASA delays deciding whom their “flagbearer” is, then they give the government the upper hand in the battle for perception.

Opposition supporters may conclude the outcome is preordained and Uhuru simply unbeatable.

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