The single-most important determinant of high voter turnout during the 2013 General Election was the ICC cases against the Jubilee presidential candidate and his deputy.
Behind the high voter turnout in the Jubilee strongholds of Central and Rift Valley was also massive voter mobilisation. There had to be a way of neutralising then ICC Prosecutor Louis Ocampo’s zeal to prosecute Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto.
Prosecution for crimes against humanity was propagandised in the high octane Jubilee campaigns, complete with pleas for heavenly intercession. The search for justice for victims of 2007-08 post-election violence was calibrated as ‘persecution’ and possible ‘execution’ of founding President Jomo Kenyatta’s scion and others. The gullible swallowed the bait.
Ruto, he of peasantry and hustler hue, would ride with a princely Kenyatta to clear his name. The stakes were high. The presidency was seen as a shield against The Hague.
In the defunct Cord areas, the influencer of voter turnout then was Raila Odinga. The quintessential mobiliser was running for President. Raila, then Prime Minister, was the most likely successor of the then retiring Mwai Kibaki, his partner in the 2008-13 coalition government. With running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, then VP, the Cord duo was a force of consequence.
But this combination was not the favourite of the Kibaki state. Their public ranking was nothing compared to the passion of the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin rallying to save their sons Uhuru and Ruto from ICC gallows.
Kibaki did not covertly support an Uhuru presidency, but he was not going to hand over his mentor Kenyatta’s son to meddlesome neo-colonialists. Former President Daniel Moi, Uhuru’s mentor, ensured Kibaki did not hand over power to the ‘wrong’ President.
In 2013, an incumbent President, a former President, state agencies, ‘owners’ of capital, including an embedded electoral commission, favoured the status quo.
The ground has since shifted: Ocampo and his successor at The Hague, Fatou Bensouda, have fizzled into the annals of history. The victims of The Hague are not facing persecution and execution as framed in 2013.
For Uhuru and Ruto, it is the conduct of public affairs during their four years in the presidency that counts. Kenya is importing maize from Mexico, in spite of the Jubilee promise of food security.
Imprudent use of public funds has resulted in multibillion-shilling plunder of public funds. The soaring national debt, running into trillions of shillings, complicates matters for Jubilee. The hyped multibillion-shilling railworks is halfway on, but millions of Kenyans are starving for basics such as unga.
Adversity comes in triples for Jubilee: The opposition column is stronger now than it was in 2013. Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto of CCM, the verbal bulldozer, is drilling holes in the Jubilee boat in the South Rift.
ANC leader and NASA founder Musalia Mudavadi has brought his 500,000 votes as a presidential candidate in 2013, and more, to the coalition pool. The weekend entry of Vihiga Governor Moses Akaranga reinforces NASA.
Raila, the crowd magnet, is in his element like in 2002, when he campaigned for Kibaki. Raila—Njamba Nene for the Kikuyu in 2002, when he endorsed Kibaki—is free to mobilise like in 2007, when forces of reaction ‘stole’ his win. History is stubborn.
The voter registration figures add verve to the charging opposition. The NASA strongholds have an edge on the 19,687,563 registered voters. A weakened Jubilee and a resurgent NASA are charging for the 4,038,138 registered voters in the battleground counties.
The decider of the presidential voter turnout, however, is this black swan - independent candidates - a byproduct of the bungled party primaries. Jubilee has met the independents halfway, with the presidential vote being the ultimate prize.
The NASA strongholds have an equal chance of soaring the presidential vote: Independents mobilising against party candidates is an opportunity in areas where winning the ticket of the dominant party is the endgame.