SCALING THE MOUNTAIN

Uhuru turf retains tyranny of numbers as voters hit 21.2 million

Mt Kenya West accounts for 4.6 million, while Mt Kenya East currently has 1.3 million

In Summary
  • Ruto and Raila are eyeing the vote-rich region in their 2022 ambitions.
  • IEBC data shows over 401,000 applied to transfer to new polling stations.
Mavoko IEBC returning officer Samwel Chacha supervising a voter registration exercise at Mlolongo town in Mavoko, Machakos county on Friday.
NUMBERS Mavoko IEBC returning officer Samwel Chacha supervising a voter registration exercise at Mlolongo town in Mavoko, Machakos county on Friday.
Image: GEORGE OWITI

The battle for Mt Kenya votes could intensify as the region leads by big margins in terms of voter numbers.

The Independent, Electoral and Boundaries Commission data reveal that Mt Kenya currently has 5.9 million voters, having recorded 224,499 new voters in the recently concluded voter listing.

Of these, Mt Kenya West accounts for 4.6 million voters, while Mt Kenya East has 1.3 million, putting the region at an advantage over the rest.

It is unknown how the region would vote, but there are signs that Deputy President William Ruto currently has an upper hand.

Kalenjin-dominated counties in Rift Valley, which largely supports Ruto, have 2.4 million voters.

The three Maa counties—Kajiado, Narok, and Samburu—recorded 914,225 voters as of November 5, 2021, while Turkana has 229,478.

ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard currently has 2.9 million voters followed by Nairobi’s 2.4 million voters.

Western, which also supports Raila to a great extent, has 2.1 million voters, followed by the Coast region with 1.8 million voters.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s Ukambani backyard has 1.6 million voters, while Northeastern has 811,795 voters in the latest register.

Political observers, however, say that a number of factors will matter in President Uhuru Kenyatta's succession race.

The DP has many times said the 2022 race would be decided by economic models and not ethnic groupings. He, however, is heavily relying on getting a chunk of the Mt Kenya vote, to get a head-start in the race that could pit him against Raila.

Based on the current IEBC data, Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru, Meru, Machakos, Murang’a, Bungoma, Kitui, Nyeri, Makueni, Kajiado, Tharaka Nithi and Narok could be the new battlegrounds.

Raila has already embarked on campaigns to tilt the scales in his favour in Mt Kenya and some Rift Valley counties with the help of area governors.

Political analyst Martin Andati told the Star that in terms of absolute numbers, Central tops, but its percentages in the new listing were low, hence a bad sign.

He said the numbers are telling what might be the general feeling among Kenyans about elections, warning that most appear to be disillusioned.

Andati observed that Western, which largely backs Raila as has been in the past two elections, had higher numbers in terms of percentages.

“It is an indicator that if no proper message is sent to the youth by the candidates, they would not turn out to vote as people expected,” he said.

Andati argued that had the IEBC attained the six million new voters, “it would have changed the dynamics completely if they (the youth) registered and voted.

“The percentage that turned out to register was very low—about 25 per cent. They will not have the kind of impact they would have had if they had registered massively as the IEBC wanted,” he said.

Dr Charles Nyambuga, a political commentator from Maseno University, said: “There will, definitely, be a battle for Mt Kenya since it doesn’t have a candidate.”

He said the numbers portend that the fight for the votes would be vicious as "politicos want to collect votes from anywhere.

“If Ruto wants 20 per cent of Nyanza, so be it. If Raila can get 10 per cent of Rift Valley or Kalenjin Rift Valley, so be it.

"You can see there is some kind of cutthroat competition for votes. Nobody is taking any region for granted,” he said.

Dr Nyambuga said every region counts, but "Mt Kenya remains crucial for everyone in the presidential race."

He said this was evident in the crowds Ruto and Raila are pulling in their various stops to address wananchi.

“In previous elections, we have not been having the same kind of phenomenon. Raila could not venture into Central. Uhuru and Ruto faced chaos in Nyanza.”

Prof Edward Kisiangani, a member of DP Ruto's strategy team, said termed it too early to know who will be the biggest beneficiary of the new votes. 

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir said ODM leader Raila is likely to retain most of his traditional bases and add a few votes from Mt Kenya and Northeastern that largely backed Jubilee in 2017.

“Any little gain from the regions would be a plus for his presidential bid. UDA will have a hard time overturning the tables in the ODM strongholds,” said Nassir, who is also the National Assembly Public Investment Committee chairman.

 

-Edited by SKanyara