Of the four candidates running in this new presidential election, the two favourites, Raila Odinga and William Ruto, assured that they would recognize the results. But Kenya feared this August 10 to once again be caught up in a post-election saga with which it is familiar, all the polls having been contested since 2002 in the country, considered a democratic anchor in the region. Unless one of them wins more than 50% of the vote and is directly elected, the two candidates who come out on top will face each other in a second round within the following thirty days.
Presidential election in Kenya: Raila Odinga or William Ruto, who will succeed Uhuru Kenyatta?
A highly monitored supervisory body
The pressure is therefore increasing on the Independent Electoral Commission (ICBC), which must declare the results by August 16 at the latest. His agents worked hard all night, sous the eye of thousands of observers, to continue the counting and dispel fears of rigging. By 6 a.m. (3 a.m. GMT), more than 90% of the presidential results forms had been received and the two heavyweights appeared to be neck and neck.
The process could however be long before the final results, and the IEBC warned on the evening of August 9 that Kenyans should be patient. “We are working to complete” the counting and verification of the results “as soon as possible,” said IEBC President Wafula Chebukati. The body, all the more under pressure as it has already been incriminated for irregularities during the 2017 election, will also have to explain itself on the technological failures and other incidents that have occurred since August 8 and which have notably led to the cancellation of six local elections.
Kenyans went to the polls to choose the successor to Uhuru Kenyatta – a member of the influential Kikuyu community, in power since 2013 –, but also their parliamentarians, governors and local elected officials. Voting day was “relatively calm and peaceful”, according to the police. Despite the long lines stretching out in the morning, often before dawn, turnout seemed in some areas to be on the decline. Of the 22.1 million voters, just over half had voted by 4 p.m. (1 p.m. GMT).
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Purchasing power and the fight against corruption
Two favorites emerged in the presidential race. The first, Raila Odinga, 77 and a member of the Luo ethnic group, is the leader of the opposition, supported since 2018 by Kenyatta’s party, during a surprising rapprochement most typical of very versatile Kenyan politics. The second, William Ruto, a sulphurous 55-year-old businessman, a Kalenjin who presents himself in opposition to the “dynasties” embodied by Kenyatta and Odinga, heirs of two families at the heart of Kenyan politics since independence in 1963.
Their campaign promises, focused on purchasing power and the fight against corruption, did not necessarily convince Kenyans who, for about a third of them, live in poverty. “We have elections, we get promises but we see no change,” lamented George Otieno Henry, a 56-year-old craftsman. “I hope this time it will be better,” he pleaded from Kibera, a huge slum in Nairobi.
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In 2017, participation was close to 80%. But the presidential election of August 2017 had been invalidated by the courts for “irregularities”, then rescheduled, tarnishing the reputation of the IEBC. Since then, political alliances have changed. But corruption has remained endemic, and the effects of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the ongoing drought have accentuated already glaring inequalities and dominated the countryside. This surge in the cost of living could also have supplanted the traditional tribal vote in the voting booth, according to analysts.
Both Odinga and Ruto have notably promised a brighter economic future for those under 34, who represent three quarters of the population but are particularly affected by unemployment. However, many among them are turning away from a political game that they consider vitiated by corruption. They were 5% less than in 2017 to have registered on the electoral lists, according l’IEBC.