By STEVE MKAWALE
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta would beat Prime Minister Raila Odinga by a slim margin in a run-off presidential election, a new opinion poll suggests.
The survey shows that Raila would win in the first round if the presidential vote were held today, but the victory would not be sufficient to secure the presidency.
However, the PM would lose in the subsequent re-run to the Finance minister by a three-point margin, according to the pollster, Ipsos-Synovate.
The survey suggests that there would be no outright winner in the first round of the contest to succeed President Kibaki – a development that Raila’s rivals bank on should their efforts to field a joint candidate against the Premier fail.
"Slightly more Kenyans (44 per cent) would vote for Uhuru and 41 per cent would vote for Raila in a run-off," Ipsos-Synovate Managing Director Maggie Ireri said Friday when releasing survey findings.
But Ireri observed that an unusually high number of respondents (15 per cent) were undecided and they could decisively settle the contest once they made up their minds.
"This proportion of undecided voters would be enough to tilt the win either way. Our experience over the last nine years of conducting political opinion poll surveys has proved that the undecided proportion has to be less than five per cent for any survey results to be conclusive," she noted.
Besides sweeping 50 per cent-plus-one of the total votes cast, the new Constitution stipulates that the candidate declared President must also garner 25 per cent of votes cast in 24 of 47 counties.
Observers say in addition to the popular vote, the requirement for the regional distribution of votes has prompted a scramble for the counties by presidential aspirants.
But a re-run between the top two candidates, which the latest opinion poll suggests may be too close to call, appears inevitable given the crowded field of presidential aspirants.
Raila, however, remains the most popular presidential candidate with slightly more than a third of the respondents (34 per cent) indicating that they back his presidential bid.
Uhuru is second, with 24 per cent of the respondents backing his bid for high office.
Eldoret North MP William Ruto came third with 10 per cent followed by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka (nine per cent), Gichugu MP Martha Karua (five per cent) and Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa (two per cent).
Other presidential aspirants, including Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and former President Kibaki’s aide Raphael Tuju recorded less than two per cent of the vote.
A sample of 2,000 respondents was interviewed for the survey conducted between October 15 and 23.
Uhuru is the only member of the G7 alliance who would beat Raila in a repeat presidential election. But the VP would perform better than Ruto.
These findings come at a time G7 leaders, including Uhuru, Kalonzo, Ruto, Eugene, and Internal Security minister George Saitoti are mulling over a joint presidential nomination to field one among them to face off with Raila.
Uhuru, Kalonzo and Saitoti have struck a pre-election pact under the PNU Alliance. Ruto, who leads a rebel wing of ODM members, has picked UDM as his preferred election vehicle. The Eldoret North MP and Eugene are expected to battle it out with the PNU Alliance for the G7 ticket.
In a contest between the Premier and the VP, Raila would win 44 per cent to Kalonzo’s 37 per cent.
Against his former ally-turned-harsh critic, Raila would garner 46 per cent to Ruto’s 29 per cent, the poll says.
It also emerged that Raila’s support was predominantly from Nyanza, Western, and Coast regions.
In the run-off analysis, Uhuru’s support was drawn mainly from Central, Eastern, and Rift Valley regions, indicating his association with members of the G7 alliance would pay off.
This is good news for the G7 alliance that has been toying with the idea of fielding a single presidential candidate.
But the poll did not assess the impact on the voting pattern of the much-awaited decision by the International Criminal Court on the fate of the charges facing the ‘Ocampo Six’. Uhuru and Ruto are facing charges over the 2007 post-election violence, whose confirmation observers say could shatter their political ambitions.
The Ipsos-Synovate poll further suggests Uhuru could be the beneficiary of votes from nearly half of those who voted for President Kibaki during the 2007 General Election.
Some 49 per cent of those polled who indicated they had voted for President Kibaki in 2007, stated they were most likely to vote for Uhuru in the 2012 presidential election.
Only 11 per cent showed support for Raila, while at least 10 per cent said they would vote for Kalonzo. Karua, who is locked in a supremacy battle for central Kenya with Uhuru, received six per cent.
The survey indicates that Ruto may not significantly dent Raila’s 2007 support base. About 62 per cent of the respondents who voted for Raila in 2007 said they would still vote for him, while 16 per cent were for Ruto.