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Election boils down to county arithmetic

By - | 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.

These would be his native Kitui, Machakos and Makueni. He would probably be able to raise an additional 25 per cent of the vote in Mombasa, Kwale and Embu. That means that the Odinga-Kalonzo ticket would be able to carry only 19 or 20 counties, four or so short of the mandatory 24 counties.

Of course, these projections are not statistically exact. But they don’t need to be to make the point that, to defeat the Uhuru-Ruto ticket is not going to be a walk in the park if the rest of the presidential aspirants do not wake up to the political realities now emerging.

They need to study the electoral map very carefully, sniff out the major electoral dynamics and then move on and see how they can best counter this looming Uhuru-Ruto juggernaut.

Facts, as they say, speak louder than words. According to figures from the defunct Electoral Commision of Kenya (ECK), Raila Odinga received 1,580,880 votes from the Rift Valley Province in the 2007 presidential elections. This figure exceeded what he got form his native Nyanza Province by almost 300,000 votes.

Political trouble

If, as we have mentioned above, the majority of these voters elect to follow Ruto, then more than one million votes could be automatically wiped out from Odinga’s columns come the next presidential elections. From where would he expect to replace such large numbers of voters?

According to those same figures, Raila received a total of 639,246 votes from Western Province.

But that was before Musalia Mudavadi, the region’s most senior politician, took off to launch his own presidential bid. If Raila loses, say, only half a million votes from Western Province next year, where would he expect to replace them from?

Could the Prime Minister be in much more serious political trouble or danger than his people have yet realised? Let’s wait and see.

The writer is a lecturer and consultant in Nairobi.

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