By Samuel Ouma
Kenyans will go to the polls in less than nine months to pick new officials, including the President, Governors, Senators, MPs, Woman representatives, and Members of County Assemblies (MCAs).
The much-anticipated elections will take place on August 9, 2022, and will be the country’s eighth since the establishment of multiparty politics in 1992.
Other democratic elections were held in 1997, 2002, 2007, 2013, and 2017, in addition to the 1992 polls in which multiple political parties competed.
The focus is on the presidential seat as the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to retire when his term expires. According to political analysts, the following year’s presidential election will be a two horse race pitching the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto.
Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi of Kanu, Mukhisa Kituyi, and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, among others, have also indicated an interest in becoming Kenya’s fifth president. But there are arguments that they do not have the political muscles to challenge the duo.
“The 2022 Presidential election will be a two-horse race; between Raila Odinga and William Ruto; and the donkeys seeking attention in it,” said Kenyan political commentator Collins Ajuok.
Opinion survey findings issued in November 2021 by TIFA Research and Radio Africa backed up the analysts’ claims. According to TIFA, Ruto is currently leading with 38 per cent of the vote, followed by Raila with 23 per cent.
According to the Agency, Ruto’s popularity dropped by 1% between June and November, while the AU special envoy’s presidential bid gained 15 points within the same period.
“At the same time, despite his nearly continual campaign activity, DP Ruto’s ratings have remained astonishingly consistent over this entire period (within a range of barely 4% between 35 and 39 per cent),” TIFA noted.
Ruto is also ahead in the Radio Africa poll, with 46 per cent of the vote to his closest challenger, the former Prime Minister’s 28 per cent.
According to TIFA, Musalia Mudavadi and his Wiper counterpart registered two and one per cent respectively.
With the preparations and other elements that influence elections being constant, voter apathy is said to be a factor that could affect the outcome of the polls from the MCA to the presidency seat.
Low voter turnout, which observers ascribe to voter indifference, particularly among youths, is a concern for the 2022 general elections. Godfrey Ombogo, an international conflict scholar, has linked voter apathy to inadequate voter registration.
According to Mr Ombogo, voter apathy will cause adverse consequences in the country’s future leadership, threatening chances of electing competent leaders.
“It is through such education that voters will know that whether they vote or not, they contribute to the kind of leadership in their ward, constituency, county and country,” said Mr. Ombogo.
He further noted that education helps the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) gain the voters’ confidence that it can deliver free, fair, and credible elections.
Going by statistics, Kenyans recently shun the Enhanced Continues Voter Registration spearheaded by the IEBC. The commission only registered 1519294 new voters out of the projected target of approximately 6 million eligible voters.
The exercise, which kicked off on October 4 and ended on November 5, targeted mainly youths who have attained eighteen years and above and yet to register as voters.
Low voter turnout was also experienced during by-elections conducted in 2021. For instance, during a mini-poll at Kiambaa constituency, central Kenya, in July, only half of the 96,000 registered voters managed to cast their votes to elect their new MP.
A month earlier, candidates who were gunning for Juja parliamentary seat in the same region were left in disbelief after 21 862 out of 115,000 ballots were cast.
Kenya’s population, which consists of more than 70 per cent of youth, is protesting against the political class who are wooing them with fake job opportunities, economic models, and other goodies.
Alberto Leny said youth are rejecting the political elite as they bear the brunt of challenges the country is grappling with-historic corruption, massive public debt, economic downturn and unemployment.
A significant number of young people have pledged not to vote in the upcoming elections, claiming that politicians do not have the people’s best interests at heart. Many leaders, they allege, gain a fortune for themselves, their families, and cronies at the expense of the voters once elected.
“I’d be doing myself a disservice by waiting all day to help someone find work while I’m unemployed.” “Politicians are constantly looking out for their interests,” a young lady named Rehab told Pan African Visions.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard, Mt. Kenya, could be the hardest damaged by poor turnout, hurting presidential rivals targeting the vote-rich region dubbed the “cradle of the tyranny of numbers.”
Political analyst Kariuki Kiunjuri says that the region’s lack of a strong presidential candidate could demotivate residents from voting.
Disappointment with the Jubilee administration, according to Ngunjiri, could be a role in why many people will not be willing to vote.
“There is no morale among the people.” They were let down by an administration that made unrealistic promises,” he explained.