East Africa’s largest economy is facing landmark elections: On Tuesday, Kenya will choose a new president, among other things. Favorites to succeed Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been in office since 2013 and who cannot stand again, are his former rival Raila Odinga, who Kenyatta is now supporting, and Vice President William Ruto. Observers expect a tight election result.
Around 22 million citizens are called to the polls to cast six votes each. They will not only re-elect the President, but also Parliament, Senate and many other posts. The 46,229 polling stations across the country are open from 06:00 to 17:00 local time (05:00 to 16:00 CEST).
For a long time, 55-year-old Ruto was considered Kenyatta’s sure successor, until he surprisingly pledged his support to 77-year-old Odinga, a former political prisoner and long-time opponent. This sealed the rapprochement of the two political “dynasties” that had repeatedly fought each other in elections in the East African country in the past.
Longtime opposition leader Odinga is running for the presidency for the fifth time. Kenyatta’s endorsement gave him access to the ruling Jubilee Party’s powerful campaign machinery, but also damaged his credibility, according to analysts. Still, many assume Odinga will emerge victorious from a close race with several influential politicians behind him.
At the final campaign rally in Nairobi over the weekend, both candidates pledged to boost the country’s ailing economy.
Odinga announced that he would transform the multi-ethnic state into a “land of hope and opportunity, a Kenya not for individual tribes but for a large Kenyan tribe”. His adversary Ruto said his government would fight inflation and create jobs. “We will create a nation that leaves no Kenyan behind,” he promised.
In online services, the top candidates accused each other of preparing to manipulate the results, since the other side could only win the elections through fraud. Fact-checking organizations have registered hundreds of false or misleading claims related to the election.
The election opens a new chapter in Kenya’s history, as neither of the two favorites belong to the dominant Kikuyu ethnic group, which has produced three of the country’s four presidents to date. According to analysts, economic aspects could be more important in the voting decision this time than, as has mostly been the case in the past, ethnicity.
Inflation in the African country is 8.3 percent. According to the World Bank, three out of ten Kenyans have to get by on less than two euros a day. In addition, the region is experiencing the worst drought in 40 years, and four million people in Kenya are suffering from hunger.
Since 2002, after every presidential election in Kenya there has been a dispute over the results. The 2017 election was invalidated by the Supreme Court due to widespread counting irregularities and mismanagement by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEBC).
The IEBC assured that this year all necessary precautions were taken to prevent fraud. International election observers will also be on site. 150,000 security forces are also to prevent riots during the election.