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Election boils down to county arithmetic

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Updated Mon, December 3rd 2012 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Dominic Odipo

It is the counties, stupid.

After studying Kenya’s political map in the run-up to the looming presidential elections, that is probably how former American President Bill Clinton, would have put it.

And he would have been spot on. To understand the feverish jostling now unfolding regarding new party political alliances, you need to look very carefully at the list of the country’s counties which appears in the First Schedule of our new Constitution.

This list includes all the 47 counties, beginning from Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Tana River and ending with Migori, Kisii, Nyamira and Nairobi City.

According to Section 138(4) of that Constitution, “a candidate shall be declared elected as President if the candidate receives (a) more than half of all the votes cast in the election; and (b) at least twenty-five per cent of the votes cast in each of more than half of the counties”.

Since the total number of counties is 47, the first whole number after half of these is 24.

From this perspective, one can easily see why the Uhuru Kenyatta- William Ruto alliance could turn out to be such a formidable political force, if these candidates could get their traditional supporters to vote with them.

If this position holds, then Uhuru, on his own, could win more than 70% of the vote in at least 7 counties. He would certainly carry Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Muranga, Kiambu, Laikipia and Nakuru. He would then, on his own, be assured of getting at least 25 PER CENT of the vote in at least 13 other counties. He could get at least 25 per cent of  the vote in Meru, Tharaka-Nithi, Samburu, Turkana, West Pokot, Nairobi, Lamu, Mombasa, Kisii,  Nyamira, Narok and Kajiado.

So, on his own, Uhuru could pull in at least 20 counties, only 4 short of what Section 138 requires for an outright presidential victory.

Now, take William Ruto.

If he retains his traditional support base, which it appears he will, then he would, on his own, win more than 70 per cent of the vote in at least 7 counties.

Walk in the park

He would carry Uasin Gishu, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Baringo, Kericho and Bomet. And so, right there, Uhuru and Ruto would already have carried 27 counties, enough to guarantee Uhuru the presidency, if only they can manage to garner 50 per cent plus one of the total presidential ballots that would have been cast but not spoiled.

Let’s, under this same scenario, now take Prime Minister Raila Odinga. On his own, the Prime Minister is sure of getting at least 70 per cent of the vote in only 4 counties. These counties are Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay and Migori.

He is also virtually sure of getting at least 25 per cent of the vote in at least 12 other counties. These other counties are Busia, Mombasa, Taita-Taveta, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Turkana, Narok, Kajiado, Kisii, Nyamira and Nairobi. That means that, on his own steam, the Prime Minister could reach the constitutional minimum in only about 15 counties.

That means that if he does not take on a new political partner who can deliver at least 9 other counties, then the ODM presidential campaign would be in serious trouble.

Let us then assume that the Prime Minister and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka finally agree to join forces in a new political alliance. What would Kalonzo be bringing onto the table? Kalonzo would be sure of bringing only three other counties onto the table.

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