KANYADUDI: Why 2022 presidential poll promises no excitement

It is a foregone conclusion it will be a Ruto-Raila duel and there are no major competing issues

In Summary

• Unlike the usual ecstasy that accompanies such polls, next year’s elections seem drab.

• The elections are coming against a backdrop of a host of unusual happenings.

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga at DP's Karen home during a past meeting. Looking on is President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga at DP's Karen home during a past meeting. Looking on is President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Image: FILE

Every election cycle in Kenya since the reintroduction of multiparty democracy in 1992 has witnessed high levels of excitement.

The political landscape undergoes polarisation as the country takes the last turn to the election year.

It is expected that the next general election will be held in August next year as nothing seems to place any reasonable obstacle.

However, unlike the usual ecstasy that accompanies such polls, next year’s elections seem drab.

Kenyans are used to high drama as they approach the general election because of myriad reasons.

The elections are coming against a backdrop of a host of unusual happenings.

In early 2020, the world got plunged into the horror of the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought about various containment, among them lockdowns and bans on gatherings.

Political activities that require close human contact have become impossible.

In cases where politicians have ignored the containment protocols, the consequences have been devastating.

Infections have rapidly risen soon after such mass political events.

Affected regions have witnessed an increase in deaths soon after the dust settles on the political events. Such is the situation in Nyanza after the Madaraka Day fete.

The Nyanza situation is the latest but similar to other parts of the country.

In this context, no sane citizen would be excited to join and participate in political processes that expose them unduly to Covid-19 infection.

Voters have real life-threatening situations than loitering in market centres waiting for a political convoy to doll handouts.

The fear of the covid-19 pandemic will therefore dampen the devilish high octane spirits of the next general elections.

The handshake of March 2018 provided the country with much needed political peace and stability.

What was expected to be a tension-packed second term of UhuRuto duopoly soon evaporated into thin air.

Uhuru needed the détente to help establish a legacy as well govern a united nation.

Raila also required the truce to enable him to reorganize himself and find his footing for the next general election.

Together they birthed the Building Bridges Initiative ostensibly to cure the country of perennial electoral violence caused by cyclic malpractices.

The BBI task force traversed the country to seek views on the nine-point agenda. 

In the end, the BBI report recommended a referendum to alter the constitutional framework of the country, which was anticipated in June of 2020 but was derailed by the pandemic, on one hand, and the judicial system on the other hand.

It is now difficult to know the outcome of the appeal. However, under the Constitution, it is quite impractical to expect a referendum before the August 2022 elections.

The referendum had promised to provide a test run for the next elections. It would have enabled the top presidential contenders to flex their muscles as a pre-match to the main duel.

The referendum had already begun to shape the political landscape in a dichotomy.

The pro-BBI brigade was coalescing around Raila Odinga, while the anti-BBI forces were oscillating around Deputy President William Ruto.

Without the referendum, the country is but limping towards the general election and there is nothing electrifying the population ahead of the grand match.

Presidential candidates in an election also provide excitement to the process. It appears there exists no marked difference in the constellation of candidates for the next election.

Previously, the issues canvased have been quite diametrically opposed.

Candidates in the previous elections have been clearly different in ideological orientation.

Their manifestoes have been starkly different in content and philosophical foundation. The cast on each side of the divide seems to have been very clear in their communication and policy positions.

It has been consistently a competition between the progressive versus the status quo forces.

However, over time since 1992, these forces have been cross-pollinating each other through defections and counter defections.

The peak of this cross-pollination was the handshake of March 9, 2018.

Kenya now has a hybrid political alliance on each side of the political aisle.

Analysts seem to agree that the contest in the next election will be between Raila and Ruto.

Out of the handshake and through political attrition, Raila has attracted into his ranks a good chunk of status quo operatives.

Likewise, Ruto has equally accommodated several hitherto progressive political mavericks. Therefore, corruption can no longer be a big campaign issue since it touches on key members on both sides.

Economic transformation as well cannot be canvased by either side because each is responsible for the nation’s economic decline.

Equity and justice have been swept under the carpet. It is thus more difficult to assign success responsibility than to apportion blame.

In the absence of clarity of vision and purpose, the candidates cannot, therefore, sharpen their policy positions.

If the election visions of the respective candidates are blurred, the political process will lack the necessary oomph.

The obtaining situation would thus present the country with an election period devoid of the usual ruckus of political tension and requisite excitement.

The country for the first time may undergo a peaceful presidential election with a laid back winner.

The risk is a lack of energy for dynamism and development.