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Numbers game: Ruto and Raila tour select regions to attract critical voters

ODM leader Raila Odinga with Deputy President William Ruto during a past event. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

An interrogation of the recently audited report by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has revealed the fight for numbers between Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga, ahead of the August 9 General Election.

The analysis by The Standard explains why the duo has in the last six months been shadowing each other, frequently traversing the vote-rich Mt Kenya, Western, Coast and Rift Valley regions.

The front runners in the presidential race are engaged in spirited campaigns to woo more than half of nearly 22,345,000 million registered voters.

This figure, however, contains details of some voters who have since been expunged from the voter register after the electoral agency on Monday announced that the register only has 22.1 million people. The Wafula Chebukati-led agency is yet to provide a breakdown of the data.

The repeat tours to the populous counties, it has emerged, were informed by the need to bag the millions of votes to propel either of the protagonists to State House.

Regions that witnessed low political activity from Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga are now being perceived as being the rivals’ strongholds.

Collectively, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) flag bearer Ruto and his Azimio la Umoja One Kenya counterpart Odinga visited Mt Kenya region 51 times in the last six months–between January 1 and June 12–and for good reason.

Battleground status

In the period under review, Ruto visited Mt Kenya 36 times while Raila made 15 trips, signalling the new-found battleground status of the region.

According to computations from IEBC data, Mt Kenya region boasts of 5.8 million votes, which each of the presidential candidates is keen to corral into their formations.

Kiambu County, which is the most populous in Mt Kenya, has 1,300,857 registered voters, followed by Nakuru (1,061,121), Murang’a (631,512), Nyeri (492,304), Kirinyaga (380,285), Nyandarua (363,859), Embu (339,919), Laikipia (266,986), Tharaka Nithi (235,549) and Meru’s 784,194.

This, coupled with the fact that Mt Kenya region is not fielding a presidential candidate for the first time in history, explains the frontrunners’ spirited tours.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s endorsement of Mr Odinga also fueled the cutthroat battle for the heart and soul of the mountain region.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with ODM leader Raila Odinga outside Harambee House in 2018. [PSCU]

The Western region, which has 2,218,828 votes to offer, saw Ruto make inroads a remarkable 22 times while Raila visited the Mulembe nation 14 times. They were on a vote hunt mission from the 849,277 registered voters in Kakamega, 650,421 in Bungoma, 307,526 in Vihiga and a further 411,604 in Busia.

The heightened forays into the Western region, which has been traditionally viewed as Mr Odinga’s stronghold, were seemingly necessitated by the decamping of Amani National Congress party leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula to the Ruto-led Kenya Kwanza Alliance where they are seeking to deliver a sizeable number of the Mulembe votes.

Enter homestretch

Alive to the fact that the August 9 elections were entering the homestretch, Ruto toured the coastal region 22 times compared to Raila’s 10. The region has 1,969,857 registered voters. That is: Mombasa–660,532, Kilifi–586,179, Tana River–138,962, Taita Taveta–181,352, Lamu–79,157 and Kwale–323,675.

In the Rift Valley region, Ruto made 21 tours with Raila only making 15 trips. The prize are the 4,065,021 registered voters; Uasin Gishu (535,043), Kajiado (468,563), Kericho (431,909), Nandi (406,304), Narok (401,394), Trans Nzoia (399,549), Bomet (373,462), Baringo (275,617), Turkana (244,097), West Pokot (217,382), Elgeyo Marakwet (212,841) and Samburu’s 98,860.

Then there is Ukambani region where Ruto made a record 14 visits in a bid to wrestle the votes from Azimio’s hold. Ukambani has previously voted for Mr Odinga who has made two visits to the region in the period under review.

A spot-check revealed that Raila relied on affiliate parties from the region to endear him to the masses. Machakos has 695,546 registered voters, Kitui 536,446 and Makueni 479,050–numbers the duo is seeking to influence to vote in their favour.

Nairobi has 2,523,161 registered voters, which informed Ruto to make 13 visits compared to Raila’s 10.

DP William Ruto greets ODM leader Raila Odinga during Madaraka Day celebrations. June 1, 2022. [File, Standard]

Nyanza region, which has predominantly voted for the Azimio presidential candidate in previous elections, saw the two frontrunners visit seven times each. They were eying the region’s 3,123,019 votes. At stake is Kisii, which has 641,298 registered voters, Kisumu 627,326, Homa Bay 546,914, Siaya 531,769, Migori 458,079 and Nyamira’s 317,633.

The populous North Eastern region was also not left out in the scramble for votes given its 877,486 registered voters. Ruto has toured the region five times compared to Mr Odinga’s who has been there only once. Voters are drawn from Mandera (215,852), Garissa (209,591), Wajir (198,866), Marsabit (166,272) and Isiolo (86,905).

With 46 days left to the elections, the presidential race has crystallised with Prof George Wajackoyah, lawyer David Mwaure, Ruto and Raila rising to the top as the candidates who were given the nod to contest by IEBC.

The rigorous vote-hunt campaigns by Ruto and Raila, however, have set them apart as favourites. But the jury is still out on who will amass majority of votes to form the next government.