Kenyans will vote on a successor to President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday. The race is tight and could go into a runoff for the first time.
One of the front runners is Raila Odinga, opposition leader in his fifth presidential bid, who is backed by former rival Kenyatta. The other is William Ruto, Kenyatta’s deputy who fell out with the president earlier in their decade in power.
Both tend to focus much more on domestic issues, raising questions about how they will follow Kenyatta’s diplomatic efforts to calm neighboring Ethiopia or tensions between Rwanda and Congo.
Kenya is the economic center of East Africa and home to around 56 million people. The country has recently experienced turbulent elections. Even then, it stands out for its relative stability in a region where some elections are highly contested and longtime leaders like Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have been declared victors by nearly 99% of the vote or widely were accused of physically cracking down on competitors.
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Kenya has no transparency on campaign donations or spending. It is estimated that some candidates for Parliament and other posts spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain access to power and its benefits, both legal and illegal.
What are the main platforms of the candidates?
Ruto, 55, advertises himself to the young and poor as a ‘hustler’ who rose from humble beginnings as a chicken seller in contrast to the elite backgrounds of Kenyatta and Odinga. He strives for higher agricultural productivity and financial inclusion. Agriculture is a major driver of Kenya’s economy and around 70% of the rural workforce is employed in agriculture.
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Odinga, 77, famous for being jailed decades ago fighting for multi-party democracy, has pledged cash donations to Kenya’s poorest and more accessible health facilities.
What do voters care about?
Odinga and Ruto have long been contenders for the presidency, and there is a certain apathy among Kenyans, especially among the younger generation in a country where the average age is around 20. The electoral commission took in less than half of the new voters it was hoping for, just 2.5 million.
Key issues in any election include widespread corruption and the economy. Kenyans have been hurt by soaring food and fuel prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that comes after the financial pain of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a third of the country’s youth are unemployed.
When will Kenya have a winner?
Official results will be announced within a week of voting. To win outright, a candidate needs more than half of all votes and at least 25% of the votes in more than half of Kenya’s 47 districts. No overall winner means a runoff within 30 days.
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The last presidential election in 2017 made history when a top court overturned the results and ordered a new election, a first in Africa. Should the courts again call for a new election, such an election would take place within 60 days of the verdict. Candidates or others have one week after the results are announced to submit a petition to the court, which has two weeks to decide.
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