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Why we are unlikely to have presidential election run-off

By Elias Mokua | Jan 26th 2022 | 3 min read

Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minster Raila Odinga at the funeral service of Joseph Chirchir at Litein High School sports grounds [DPPS]

The unceremonious divorce of the OKA “brothers” now puts presidential candidates William Ruto and Raila Odinga far ahead of the game.

The safe pair of hands in the person of Musalia Mudavadi have found safety in UDA. The good man who had sworn he would be in the ballot, now seems to have moved into someone’s well-organised house.

He cannot crow there. He will be in the mix of many lining up for a share in the high table should the owner emerge the presidential winner.

Brother Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, shell-shocked that all along he has been working with someone he cannot trust, says he is off to State House with or without his fellow brothers. If he goes all the way, he will be indirectly supporting UDA to bring down its main competitor who is leading the Azimio caravan.

In fact, I do not think there will be a run-off because of the following reasons. First, based on this scenario and barring any real earthquake, the two-horse race to State House has started early which provides space and time for the two camps to dig into each other in an effort to win first round. Consequently, there will be depth in campaigns to enable the voter to make a wiser decision in good time.

Second, the personalities at the helm, Ruto and Raila, are very different yet similar in voter reception. They either attract or repel interest. This makes it easier for voters to decide early whom to go for.

Thirdly, the candidates prick each other’s history. Voters will not find it difficult to figure out which CV of the two has had an impact in Kenya’s history. For those to whom history is a factor, they already know where to cast their vote.

Fourth, the support bases for the two candidates are quite radical. No matter the history or performance of their preferred candidate, they will not shift their loyalty. Therefore, the battlegrounds are more in the swing vote zones.

However, even here the position of outgoing governors, senators and MPs will be known much earlier than in past elections. In a sense then, the August poll will produce a winner in the same way a run-off would.

Fifth, politically Kenya is a unique country. The loudest critics of the government are in government. The Opposition that should be mauling the government is nested in government.

In the absence of an official opposition, the campaign content has shifted more to personality attacks, a bit of emerging economic models and as usual a million hollow promises, leaving out a critical component of presidential elections: Performance assessment of the outgoing regime. 

The voter needs to feel the gaps in the outgoing regime in order to weigh options on how the incoming regime intends to be different.

Thankfully, in a two-horse race, voters will decide which way to vote in good time. As an aside, whatever you think of the current regime do not spew much negativity into infrastructure development, roads specifically. Results are tangible here.

Sixth, there is not real “under dog” between Ruto and Raila. Although self-pity phrases are thrown to attract sympathy votes from both camps, the voter who falls into this category of campaign messaging has enough time to process the low-level messages and hopefully make a wiser decision earlier.

Lastly, I do not know the role of a deep state in the forthcoming elections, if at all. The issue featured in the media last year. A wise voter should promote a good governance agenda by voting in a sensible, practical and result-oriented candidate.

We, voters who are miles away from the deep state, have no control over who else influences election outcomes. Nevertheless, we can do our bit. Vote wisely.  

Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

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