EXPANDING TERRITORY

Ruto and Raila shift battle to swing votes in 17 counties

Their respective think tanks are burning the midnight oil strategising to ensure that their strongholds turn out to vote for them.

In Summary
  • They are also keen on swing votes from regions their strategists describe as battlegrounds.
  • They are eyeing new grounds for numbers to boost their chances
Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga in 2018
Raila verses Ruto Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga in 2018
Image: FILE

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga have shifted their focus on swing votes as they consolidate their strongholds, 315 days to the August 9, 2022 presidential race.

Insiders in Ruto and Raila camps have told the Star that their respective think tanks are burning the midnight oil strategising to ensure their strongholds turn out to vote for them.

The two presidential candidates have in the recent past stepped up their presidential campaigns.

Apart from pushing for a huge turn-out on election day and in the registration set to be conducted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, they are also keen on regions that UDA strategists describe as battlegrounds.

Both sides are going flat out to turn the tables against each other in the counties of Nairobi, Narok, Kajiado, Kisii, Nyamira, Taita Taveta, Kilifi, Busia, Migori, Samburu, Trans Nzoia, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, and Isiolo.

Edward Kisiang’ani, one of the leading strategists in DP Ruto’s team, said the determination of swing votes, also referred to as battlegrounds, should be arrived at scientifically, available data from the previous elections and the projections based on changing political dynamics.

Based on their research, the university don told the Star on Tuesday that most of Raila’s traditional strongholds were tilting towards Ruto's hustler movement.

“When you look at, for instance, Turkana, Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta, parts of Kakamega, Busia, Migori and the larger Kisii region, there is a massive movement to hustler nation.

"This change of politics is informed by the proposals being made by the Deputy President under the bottom-up economic model, which is resonating well with many Kenyans across the counties,” he told the Star on the phone.

He said the messaging by Ruto's competitors is "the usual tired approach".

"Nothing new to offer. Raila’s biggest undoing was the Building Bridges Initiative, which they attempted to force on Kenyans against the wishes of millions. This eroded the support he has had for many years. Some of his supporters also think he should take a break from politics hence the shift in support to Ruto," Kisiangani said. 

The Deputy President, who has fallen out with President Uhuru Kenyatta, has launched an onslaught to dethrone Raila in his bastions, particularly in the Coast, South Nyanza and pockets of Western.

He has won to his camp most of the Raila troops in the Coast region, lifting the lid on the duel that is forming up in the search for a decisive victory in the State House race.

The voting pattern in the Northeastern counties will largely be informed by clanism and the negotiated sharing of political positions.

Kisiangáni, however, said the unceremonial removal of Garissa Township MP Aden Duale as the Majority leader in the National Assembly, one of the influential and senior-most positions in the government's pecking order, did not go down well with the pastoralist community

He pointed out that Duale’s purge among other chairmen of House communities from the region has whipped the residents of the arid and semi-arid counties to the hustler nation movement.

The Kuria and the Teso factor in Migori and Busia counties respectively are also offering the DP a ring for a battle with the former Prime Minister, who has for ages controlled the two regions.

In Nairobi, the DP is relying on a host of elected MPs and former Starehe MP Bishop Margaret Wanjiru to stump his influence in city politics.

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok said compared to the 2013 and 2017 elections, the DP has made inroads in several counties that were once reserved for Raila.

The close ally of Ruto said the politics are shifting from tribal card to development agenda.

“There is a transition wave that is sweeping across the country from the old politics that has largely had three families as the main players. The hustler movement wave is now in every corner of the country and that is why the DP has made inroads in Coast, Western as well as some parts of the Nyanza. It is not about the tribe again but issues,” he told the Star.

For his part, Raila who is vying for the presidency for the fifth time has gone full throttle to tilt the scales against Ruto in Narok, Kajiado, Samburu, Nairobi, Coastal as well as Western counties.

Banking on the influence of Uhuru and Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, Raila is understood to be plotting to turn Nakuru, Meru as well as Tharaka Nithi into battlegrounds.

On Monday Raila held a consultative meeting with politicians and grassroots leaders from Narok, Kajiado and Samburu.

In the meeting in Rongai, Kajiado county, the Maa leaders who included Environment CS Keriako Tobiko and Governor Joseph ole Lenku vowed to rally the region in supporting the ODM boss in the coming elections.

“You have sacrificed your political future for the Maa nation, you have earned our trust, you have earned our confidence,” Tobiko said.

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir (ODM) said Ruto has slim chances in the presidential race saying “reality is soon dawning on him that he has no ground after all.”

The close confidant of the ODM chief said the DP might be walking around with a number of ODM defectors but this does not translate to Ruto making inroads in the ODM strongholds.

Nassir, who is eying to succeed Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, said Raila with the pivot of his handshake partner –Uhuru – has expanded his strongholds.

“Coast, Western as well as South Nyanza counties cannot be battlegrounds with Ruto or any other presidential candidate for that matter. Where Raila and ODM have had support is intact. Through handshake, we have cemented support in areas we never had such as in Mt Kenya," he told the Star on the phone.

Raila has promised to slay corruption, create jobs for young people and set up programmes to improve the economy if he becomes president.