SECTIONS

Ruto, Raila to battle for 6.6m votes in 15 swing counties

Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

More than 6.6 million votes in 15 battleground counties hold key to who between Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio flagbearer Raila Odinga will win the presidential elections.

The figures released on Wednesday night by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission have defined the regions Ruto and Raila must concentrate on to win the 6.6 million votes in the swing counties, even as parties ensure their strongholds remain intact.

Based on recent political trends and previous presidential results, Kakamega, Narok, Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Lamu, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Isiolo, Kajiado, Turkana, Samburu and Nairobi are swing counties with 6,664.368 votes.

Ruto and Raila are therefore expected to engage in a political battle which observers say will not only be bruising, but demanding and expensive as they unleash resources that could make this the most expensive campaign in Kenya’s history.

The political battle for the swing counties will decide who wins majority of the 22,120,458 registered voters.

Whereas Kenya Kwanza Alliance has 19 counties as their strongholds, Azimio boasts 13 areas they expect to sweep almost all presidential votes.

Ruto and Raila need to muster over half of the 6.6 million votes in the 15 counties earmarked as swing counties.

Kenya Kwanza has identified Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang'a, Kiambu, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Baringo, Laikipia, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Bungoma, Kericho and Bomet as safe counties, where it has a commanding presence.

For Azimio, Vihiga, Busia, Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii, Nyamira, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni, Taita Taveta and Mombasa are taken as their strongholds.

Kenya Kwanza Alliance, according to Belgut MP Nelson Koech, insists that Vihiga, Mombasa and Makueni with a combined 1,431,357 registered voters — are also swing counties, making the total number of votes up for grabs 8,095,725.

Kenya Kwanza presidential canidate DP William Ruto. [Charles Kimani, DPPS]

"We have made significant inroads in the three counties and they are no longer Azimio zones, we are nearly 50-50 now or by the time of polls," said Koech.

Uhuru won the 2017 elections with 8,203,290 against Raila’s 6,762,224. However, the Azimio flagbearer led in 26 out of 47 counties.

In 2017, Raila led in the counties of Kilifi (274,179), Uhuru (49,575), Kakamega (483,157) Uhuru (63,399), Kwale (138,565) Uhuru (43,694) and Bungoma (284,786) Uhuru (126,475). 

However, the political moves by ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi have significantly changed the political arithmetic in the four counties and might complicate things for Raila.

Nairobi County, with 2,251,929 registered voters, is the biggest swing bloc that the DP and the Azimio flagbearer are keen to bag. In 2017, Raila got 828,826 while Uhuru garnered 791,291 votes.