December 6, 2021

Raila and Ruto will lead but without the necessary constitutional threshold of 50% + 1

Raila and Ruto will lead but without the necessary constitutional threshold of 50% + 1 and at least 25 per cent of the votes in at least 24 counties

KANYADUDI: Kenya faces first test of presidential runoff in 2022

• The prevailing circumstances are such that there is no presidential candidate with a clear advantage to get an outright win in the first round.

• This means the country is likely for the first time under the new Constitution undergo a presidential runoff.

Raila and Ruto will lead but without the necessary constitutional threshold of 50% + 1

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the funeral service of the Matungu MP Justus Murunga on December 5, 2020.
Image: DPPS

The steady growth of the One Kenya Alliance comprising the triumvirate of Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford-K) is establishing a third force.

The political environment has been accustomed to the regular brickbats between ODM leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto.

It had been a foregone conclusion that the 2022 presidential election would be a duel between Raila and Ruto.

OKA was born out of a desire by the former Kanu operatives to find footing in the emerging political alignments. These majorly arose from internal strife within Nasa and rejection of the Ruto leadership by pro-Gideon individuals.

At its launch and onset of its activities, pundits had dismissed it as  inconsequential in the presidential race. Recent events have, however, shown the new alliance will be a critical player in the 2022 election outcome.

Even though they are unlikely to produce the winning candidate, they will certainly determine who eventually takes the oath of office as president.

The prevailing circumstances are such that there is no presidential candidate with a clear advantage to get an outright win in the first round. This means the country is likely for the first time under the new Constitution undergo a presidential runoff.

Barring any spectacular occurrence currently unforeseen, Raila and DP Ruto will emerge top of the pack. Either of them will be leading but without the necessary constitutional threshold of 50% + 1 and at least 25 per cent of the votes in at least 24 counties.

On the other end, OKA is new as an outfit but comprises old players whose political dispositions are well understood by the public. They have a history as system and status quo comprador bourgeois. They have been brought up by the conservative Daniel Moi training school and share political heritage with Ruto.

Except for Kalonzo and Wetang’ula, they have pedigree and share this dynasty tag bondage with Raila. They have a status of self-conflict that make them have serious difficulty in coalition building with the leading contenders.

Under Cord and Nasa, the three main principals have supported Raila during the 2013 and 2017 elections respectively. In Kalonzo and Mudavadi’s estimates, Raila is unreliable and should give way to either of them.

Raila and Ruto will lead but without the necessary constitutional threshold of 50% + 1

This is because supporting Raila again in 2022 would paint them as having no political gravitas and ambitions of their own, further reducing their principal status, a position that is very necessary in coalition negotiations.

On the other, Gideon is the true representation of far-right in terms of political ideology. He would have to bend double backwards to enter into a philosophy oriented coalition with Raila, who belongs to the centre-left.

In the constellation of Kanu political graduates and orphans, Ruto ranks below the OKA principals. It is unimaginable that Kalonzo or any of them would be willing to play second fiddle to him.

In fact, it is safe to conclude that the young Moi cannot be in the same formation with Ruto. Any pre-election coalition agreement without at least three of the OKA principals immediately denies Raila and Ruto an outright victory, even if either emerged the leading.

The other factor that will drive the country to a runoff is the current instability in the existing voting blocs. Traditionally, Kenyan voters are mobilised along ethnic lines with political kingpins.

The ethnic groups occupy specific geographical areas that constitute the voting blocs around which presidential candidates balkanise political support.

The kingpins enter into alliances with dominant presidential candidates supposedly on behalf of the community and region. In most instances, such kingpins would start off as presidential candidates themselves to up their game.

The known political formations are Mt Kenya, Nyanza, Western, Rift Valley, Ukambani and Coast regions. Of all these, only Nyanza appears solidly united behind Raila. Without a clear presidential candidate one year to the elections, Mt Kenya appears split into three.

One is pushing to have the mantle cross the river Chania into the eastern side to support either Speaker Justin Muturi or Agriculture CS Peter Munya. The other is split between Ruto and Raila.

While Ruto has gone for the new and youthful MPs, Raila has moved to expand his influence within the oligarchs and corporate Kikuyus.

In Western, Mudavadi cannot claim the title of undisputed king of the Mulembe nation. He has had to perennially contend with the strong grassroots influence of ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula , all who have political fights in the counties. His home county of Vihiga is under an ODM governor, Wilber Ottichilo.

Ruto controls the northern part of the Rift Valley where Gideon is a constant irritant to his stranglehold. Central rift is Kikuyu-dominated and will most likely listen to sound of the river from the mountain.

Southern rift is constantly split between Raila and Uhuru. Since Uhuru and Raila will most likely be on the same side, it will be interesting to watch the outcome.

This scenario is replicated in Ukambani where Kalonzo has no governor at his beck and call. The trio of Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Charity Ngilu (Kitui) have never taken the Kalonzo leadership seriously and are pulling the community in a different direction.

Raila has generally maintained his grip over the coastal region. Therefore, without solid unity within these vital voting blocs, it is improbable that any of the candidates would muster sufficient support to win in the first round.

The blurred political horizon in the country has left the business community more confused than in previous elections. It has become difficult to clearly delineate between the competing formations.

Previously the business community had an easy time finding a candidate that closely measured to their investment interests. On such a candidate, they easily cast their lot and bankrolled.

Raila and Ruto will lead but without the necessary constitutional threshold of 50% + 1

Lack of ideological clarity and difference among the candidates have made the political environment hazed and more or less the same. This scenario also complicates the matrix for local and international strategic interests.

Kenya holds strategic importance to local and international interests. In every election, these interests seek to deliberately influence the outcome of the presidential elections to their favour. The situation obtaining now is as was in the 2002 elections where a win by Mwai Kibaki or Uhuru Kenyatta meant the same for these interests.

The business and strategic interests ordinarily work in cahoots with the deep state to deliver a candidate that is amenable to their bidding. In a three horse race, taking a position would be daunting. They may find it safe to adopt a wait and see position. The resultant situation would be that the IEBC would call for a runoff. In the circumstance, each of the candidates would turn to OKA for a win.

Ruto will be able to attract the majority, if not all, of the OKA principals through outright buyout at current value in real-time market rates by hard currency cash. Raila, on the other hand, will win by offering an assured political future for the OKA principals through an all-inclusive government complete with a clear process of his succession.

In this deal making, Raila will rely on his past relationship with the former NASA principals to net Kalonzo and company and current rapport with Uhuru to woo Gideon.

Ruto on the other hand will have to deploy brinkmanship and allure of personal aggrandizement to bring his erstwhile Kanu siblings except the young Moi to his stable.

The most unlikely alternative but easiest option to sell is a post-election coalition between Raila and Ruto just before the runoff polls.

Politics is that art of the possible in an environment of uncertainties and apparent impossibilities.