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AUGUST 9 COUNTDOWN

JAMWA: Why August 9 presidential election is too close to call

Kenyan politics revolves around kingpins and regional/tribal affiliations.

In Summary

• While there are clear blue and yellow bases a lot of areas are grey making any prediction of this year's election very difficult.

• The Rift valley and the mountain regions still have the lion's share of votes.

A composite image of Deputy President and UDA leader William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga
A composite image of Deputy President and UDA leader William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga
Image: STAR

The path to winning this year's election is strewn with uncertainties not seen in the previous elections.

It has been easy to predict the past poll outcomes given the people and parties coalescing around top presidential contenders. Kenyan politics revolves around kingpins and regional/tribal affiliations.

While the Jubilee coalition of 2013 largely drew its strength from the Rift Valley and Mt Kenya regions, Cord and Nasa in 2013 and 2017 respectively enjoyed strong backing from Nyanza, Western, Coast and Lower Eastern (Ukambani) regions.

That was then. Today, the changing political dynamics and fast changing alliances have conspired to paint the political landscape in very different colours.

The distinctive dichotomy that defined the contest between the two top contenders has been blurred and safe boundaries, otherwise called strongholds redrawn, thanks in part to the handshake politics which has seen Raila Odinga inherit a fraction of President Uhuru Kenyatta's home base but also alienated most of the president's old buddies who are now in DP William Ruto's orbit.

On the other hand, the Deputy President has raided hitherto Raila’s bations such as Western. Nairobi, Northeastern and parts of the Rift regions remain toss-ups. Still, this year's electoral map will radically change due to the handshake politics and the DP Ruto's tenacity at making inroads in ODM leader's traditional bases of Western and Coast.

While there are clear blue and yellow bases — blue for Azimio and yellow for UDA and in extension Kenya Kwanza — a lot of areas are grey making any prediction of this year's election very difficult.

The Rift valley and the mountain regions still have the lion's share of votes. And any candidate who garners majority in those two areas will have a head start and may remain top unless the battlegrounds turn to near stronghold for the trailing candidate.

Odhiambo Jamwa is an economic and political analyst