How 5 million new voters could influence Raila, Ruto contest

At least 14 vote-rich counties are likely to tip the scales in next year's presidential race.

In Summary
  • About 10 of the 14 counties with the biggest number of those targetted to register as voters are in Raila's and Uhuru's strongholds.
  • These are counties that will have an average of one million eligible voters each.
DP William Ruto and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi in 2018.
DP William Ruto and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi in 2018.
Image: DPPS

President Uhuru Kenyatta's succession could heavily be determined by those who will vote for the first time next year.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission estimates that four million Kenyans have attained the voting age of 18, hence the total number of registered voters could hit 25 million.

This means the Wafula Chebukati-led commission plans to list more than five million new voters, who could tip the scales in next year's polls. 

There are 19.6 million registered voters and continuous registration is on at constituency headquarters throughout the country. 

According to the IEBC operations plan, the commission is expected to run the first phase of the enhanced voter registration campaign from August 2 to 16. The second phase of mass listing will be on December 6—20.

Meanwhile, The Star has established that think tanks devoted to presidential hopefuls are plotting how to mobilise those who did not participate in the 2017 election, to register and vote. 

In the nullified presidential vote of August 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta garnered 8,203,290 votes, representing 54.3 per cent, against Raila Odinga's 6,762,224 votes (44.7 per cent).

UDA, Ruto’s political vehicle, is seeking to marshal as many new young voters as possible, mainly in its strongholds.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said UDA will soon be launching massive voter mobilisation across the country. He said the party is mapping the country as per the statistics available at the Registration of Persons' office.

“There are millions of uncollected identification cards at various offices across the country and we have several young people who are now at the right age to get IDs; these are the people we want to appeal to, to participate in the leadership of this country," Gachagua told the Star.

"The only way they can participate is by getting involved in electoral processes." 

Kenya is experiencing a major youth bulge, and given this numerical strength, this is a core group that politicians are expected to target in their campaigns. Analysts say the stimuli for the young voters to turn out and register to vote will determine the presidential contest.

According to the 2019 population census, the youth population of between 18 to 34 years stands at 13,777,600. This makes the cohort a major hunting ground for political big guns.

An analysis of the 2019 census shows about 10 of the 14 counties with the biggest number of those targetted to register as voters are in Raila's and Uhuru's strongholds.

The top 14 are Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru, Kakamega, Mombasa, Meru, Kisii, Kilifi, Murang'a, Kisumu,  Kajiado, Uasin Gishu, Machakos and Bungoma. All but Uasin Gishu might flip to the Uhuru-Raila axis.

ANC deputy party leader and Lugari MP Ayub Savula said they are at the final stage of their strategy, which they will unveil to concur with the IEBC’s date.

“As a party, we are cognisant of the fact that every election is determined by numbers," Savula said.

ANC is among the Nasa affiliate outfits that Uhuru wants to work with Raila in a bigger alliance to take on DP Ruto.

"We will participate fully in mobilising our supporters to register as voters,” Savula told the Star.

There are projections that some western counties would be the new numerical titans, elbowing Central and Rift Valley regions that have dominated the voting landscape.

Nairobi will still be a major battleground as it has the largest number of people aged 18 and above at three million, up from 2.8 million.

The next largest vote-rich county will be Kiambu with 1.6 million eligible voters, an increase of 165,754 from the 2018 tally.

Nakuru will have the third-largest number of eligible voters at 1.3 million, followed by Kakamega with 1.1 million. The fifth-largest will be Meru with one million eligible voters.

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna said they plan to use the ongoing party membership recruitment drive to reach out to potential voters to equally register as voters.

“While it is the function of IEBC to register voters, as a party, we have told our countrywide offices to put in place plans to mobilise our young supporters who have IDs to proceed and register as voters,” he said.

Some counties, however, will add more to their tally of voting-age population than others, with Kakamega having 197,127 new potential voters, ahead of Kiambu and Nakuru, which see an additional 134,159 and 189,082, respectively.

Bungoma will also have 177,000 new people eligible to register as voters in what is likely to make Western the new political battlefield as this pushes its voters’ tally to 931,091. 

Counties with the least number of those eligible to register as voters include Lamu with 87,955, Samburu with 113,533, Taita Taveta with 224,779 and Marsabit with 243,954.

A projection of the August 9 presidential contest indicates candidates must push for voter listing and eventual huge voter turnout in their bedrocks to win the election.

The battle is billed to be one of the most competitive in the history of Kenya.

The 2022 presidential contest is shaping up to be a race pitting Raila against Ruto. Should Uhuru's plans to unite Nasa chiefs bear fruit, it will be a shot in the arm for the ODM leader.

There is also a plan to have One Kenya Alliance leaders Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Gideon Moi(Kanu) and Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya) join Raila.

The bigwigs and their respective parties are now expected to retreat to their strongholds to urge young Kenyans to register as voters to claim a share of the huge bloc. UDA, for instance, will use elected leaders to mobilise registration in their areas.