The scintillating presidential race that concludes on Tuesday will be decided by the extent to which the two front runners will have scooped votes from each other’s traditional strongholds.
With UDA presidential candidate William Ruto having fashioned his campaign as an offshoot of the 2013 and 2017 Jubilee juggernaut, to inherit the Uhuru Kenyatta’s strongholds, the daunting task has been to guard against the onslaught of Azimio-One Kenya Alliance’s Raila Odinga to three main regions - Central Kenya, Upper Eastern and Rift Valley.
On the other hand, Odinga has mounted his fifth presidential campaign on the back of a priceless endorsement from President Kenyatta with the buoyance of climbing the populous Mt Kenya region for a vote harvest to ensure victory.
If he wins over the mountain, he will all but enter State House, helped by his traditional vote baskets of Nyanza, Western, Lower Eastern and Coast regions.
All the other regions will be battlegrounds. Now, with Uhuru out of the contest, the presumptive heir-apparent has been Dr Ruto who appears to have sold himself as the best alternative to profit from the defunct Jubilee party’s 2017 wave in Mt Kenya and Rift Valley.
So what is the route to victory between Odinga and Dr Ruto in the context of the key voting blocs as candidates eye the 22.1 million registered voters?
Undoubtedly, a win will depend on who will pierce more into each other’s traditional voting blocks.
Raila – augmented by his running mate Martha Karua and President Kenyatta – need to climb the mountain and scoop a sizeable amount of the 4.5 million votes.
The fact is Odinga will garner more than what he got in 2017 and 2013 from the mountain. The question however will be if what he gains from the region will equal or supersede what he would have lost in his strongholds, which have been subjected to aggressive attack by Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza coalition.
First, Ruto has made significant inroads in Western counties of Trans Nzoia, Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma and Busia, which have a combined 2.6 million votes.
He also threatens to chip away a sizeable number of votes from the 1.8 million in the five coastal counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu and Taita Taveta.
In Ukambani, Odinga needs to exceed or equal the voter supremacy he enjoyed in the last two elections which is home to 1.7 million votes. Ruto has won a good numbers supporters going by recent opinion poll results.
It won’t be easy though as the former Prime Minister has raised the ante in his bid to protect a further slide in Ukambani which has traditionally voted for him.
In two past elections, local kingpin Kalonzo Musyoka was the intervening proxy in Odinga’s success having been a running mate, a position he controversially lost to Martha Karua. It will be clear on Tuesday if loss of running mate position will occasion a tinkering of voters’ perceptions.
Odinga has maintained his stranglehold on four counties of Nyanza encompassing Homa Bay, Siaya, Migori and Kisumu. These counties have 2.2 million votes. It appears Ruto has accepted the fact he will make little inroads in the region.
At the Coast, Ruto has remained a constant nightmare for the Azimio coalition, threatening to cut down the huge margins Raila has enjoyed over the last two elections. With the capture of outgoing governors Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Ruto appears certain to go past the dismal performance of Jubilee in 2013 and 2017.
The obtaining scenario make’s Tuesday’s General Election unprecedented as the matrix that could determine the elections is unclear.
The entry of erstwhile Roots party presidential candidate George Wajackoyah has also added a new twist to the race, more than was the case in 2013 and 2017 when no fringe party made any significant show outside of the top two. Prof Wajakoyah controls about two per cent of the vote if opinion polls were to hold.
The greatest likelihood of the elections is that the side that has made greater inroads into the other’s traditional territories will carry the day.
What is clear, however, is that the race is between the two front runners. However, on paper, it will be Azimio-One Kenya’s Odinga whose regions appear to have been infiltrated more by Ruto’s than vice versa.
Whether this will propel Ruto to power at the expense of the former Prime Minister will be known on Tuesday.