Political realignments could tilt scales for Raila Odinga, William Ruto

Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga and Kenya Kwanza's William Ruto. [File, Standard]

As Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga battle for the presidency, they will be wrestling over a handful of counties that are likely to determine which coalition ascends to the State House.

The outcome of the August 9 General Election will be heavily influenced by the realignments that have happened over the past five years, key among them the alliance between President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Opposition leader Raila. 

These alignments and realignments could be seen in the numbers, especially in Mt Kenya, Western Kenya and the Coast regions where some of the biggest shifts have occurred.

After the release of the voters register yesterday, the prize of the races is finally evident. The political parties are battling for the endorsement of slightly more than 22 million voters.

This shift could come from the choice of running mate. Both Ruto and Raila went for candidates from the same region - Martha Karua and Rigathi Gachagua.

While their inclusion on the ticket will have an effect on the direction the vote goes, an even greater impact could be borne from the allies they made along the way.

Raila, with the support of President Kenyatta, could have with him the support of a slice of  Uhuru’s base in Mt Kenya, and Ruto now with the backing of Raila’s former allies in Western, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangula, could score significantly in Western.

All those scenarios are conjectures. However, with the release of the final register of voters, the presidential contenders and their supporters finally have with them the information to support their hypothesis.

Some of the counties that Ruto is targeting are Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia, which are among those where Raila won significantly in the last election. 

Others, where Raila won with over two-thirds of the vote, are Homa Bay, Siaya, Makueni, Busia, Migori, Kisumu, Kilifi, Machakos, Kitui, Kwale, Taita Taveta, and Mombasa.

Raila’s performance in the four Western Kenya was an improvement from 2013 when he competed with Mudavadi and saw a significant share go to him.

Mudavadi ran for president in 2013 and finished behind Uhuru and Raila. While he struggled to win votes across the country, barely managing a percentage, Mudavadi was a close second to Raila.

He beat both Uhuru and Raila in his  Vihiga backyard, managing 49 per cent of the vote while Raila garnered 46 per cent.

In Bungoma, during that election, Mudavadi managed 31 per cent while Raila had 64 per cent. He secured 30 per cent in Kakamega and 12 per cent in Trans Nzoia.

It is instructive that when he joined forces with Raila in 2017, the ODM leader’s vote share increased significantly compared to Uhuru and Ruto’s ticket.

Together with Wetangula, Mudavadi hopes that they will be able to deliver 70 per cent of the Western Kenya voters to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

The western region has about 2.6 million voters. Ruto now hopes that with the input of his two partners he will be able to poll at least 1.6 million across Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and Busia.

While the 2013 election results make the influence of Mudavadi in Western Kenya, especially his native Vihiga, as well as Kakamega, Trans Nzoia and Bungoma, apparent, it cannot be denied that Raila still enjoys his own support in the region.

Raila still won every county in Western but struggled to secure half of Trans Nzoia without Mudavadi and only barely in 2017.  

Ruto is similarly betting on the influence of Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and others in the region such as Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa to loosen the grip that Raila has had in the region over the two past elections.

Kilifi, with 588,602 of its residents registered as voters, has only voted one way since 2013 - Raila’s party.

ODM won 85 per cent of the votes cast in the county with Jubilee only managing 15 per cent. Raila scored a higher percentage in Kilifi than he did in Kitui and Machakos the base of Kalonzo, one of Raila’s closest allies.

Kalonzo’s appeal is evident from his and Raila’s coalition. In Machakos, Makueni and Kitui, Raila polled more than eighty per cent of the vote. They are some of the counties, aside from Raila’s base in Nyanza and Western where Raila won overwhelmingly.

Mt Kenya region makes up counties where Raila scored the least in the 2013 and 2017 elections as he barely got one per cent of the vote but hopes to perform better this time thanks to Uhuru’s support.