Acouple of days ago, a friend based in Brussels asked me for a genuine — not partisan — perspective on who will win the August 8 General Election. He has been following news about this country, especially on the polls, and he is confused about how close the election looks. He knows I support Jubilee and that I also understand the opposition. He, therefore, wanted to know who between President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA’s Raila Odinga will win the rematch, after the 2013 duel.
Without any hesitation, I told him that the fact that the polls show a close race between President Uhuru and Raila, one month to the election, is exactly the reason why the incumbent will still win as far as I am concerned. My reasons for taking this position are actually quite simple.
First, the opposition has been campaigning against Jubilee consistently for the last four years. They have hammered at the ruling party every single day for those four years, pinned them down on every mistake they’ve made, attacked them using propaganda even where no mistake existed, condemned every project they initiated, and challenged every decision Uhuru has made as the head of state.
Second, the media has run ‘exposÃ©’ after ‘exposÃ©’ on Jubilee in the past three years. The reason I put the exposÃ© in brackets is because a lot of the time the stories run by the print and, especially, TV stations have been mere allegations, usually made by the opposition. Then the media presents the allegations to the public as facts. The media has been so notorious at this that, at some point, the sector appeared to be the communications arm of the opposition!
Then we have our civil society. Kenya has a very robust civil society – especially those involved in governance. However, literally all these institutions were against Jubilee in 2013 and some of them even petitioned against Uhuru’s win. Since then, they have never even tried to pretend that they have anything but distrust for the Jubilee administration. They have, therefore, done everything in their power to prove or paint Jubilee as illegitimately in office.
For example, they used the ICC cases to viciously fight Jubilee. Once the cases were dropped, they have been subtly latching on every allegation against the government to pressure local and international institutions against Jubilee’s interests. Finally, as the election draw nearer, some of them have literally stepped into the political space to officially help the opposition against Jubilee.
Jubilee has been under fire since they got into office. They have been massacred on issues relating to corruption until Uhuru had to fire a third of his Cabinet. They have been [very unfairly] attacked on tribalism as the opposition wrongly tried to portray them as a government of only two tribes. They have been presented as incompetent due to issues outside their control, especially drought and oil prices, which have forced the cost of living to rise and negatively affected the lives of Kenyans. Added to these are direct personal attacks against Uhuru and William Ruto that have tried very hard to present them as completely unsuited to run Kenya. It is quite possible that there has never been a government – or a presidency – under such duress in Africa. But despite all these challenges, Uhuru is still leading Raila by a few points in the polls!
In fact, Uhuru is doing better than in 2013 – now without the ICC cases, and as an incumbent. He is also no longer running against people who are senior officials in the government. Finally, as we saw in 2013, UhuRuto are terrific at finishing strong; while Raila and his team are quite terrible at it. Uhuru can only get better, while Raila can only get worse.