Nairobi, Kenya — One is the self-proclaimed champion of the “Hustler Nation.” Another is a veteran leftist who is running for senior office for the fifth time. Both are products of Kenya’s corrupt political system, but they claim they can transform it if elected president.
As 22 million registered voters now face a choice between the country’s vice president, William Ruto, 55, and 77-year-old politician Raila Odinga, The hotly contested race to lead East African pioneer Kenya is culminating on Tuesday. A veteran running for president for the fifth time.
Days after the vote, the race was nailed — a testament to Kenya’s mature democracy, whose once-high democratic hopes, despite its flaws, gave way to recent fake votes and military coups. This is in contrast to other African countries that have been handed over.
For Western allies, this is why Kenya, a burgeoning technology hub, a critical counter-terrorism partner, and a linchpin of stability in a region plagued by hunger and conflict, is more important than ever. One of the reasons.
Yet Kenya’s elections have a history of messy and unpredictable events. Previous polls have been marred by rampant violence, lengthy courtroom dramas and, in 2017, the murder of a senior election official days before the poll.
So far, the election season has been largely uneventful, with even hopeful signs of change. The corrosive ethnopolitics that have dominated Kenyan politics for decades are showing signs of easing. Before the vote, fewer people fled their homes for fear that they would burn down.
Kenyans began lining up outside polling stations before dawn on Tuesday. By mid-morning, voting was nearly complete nationwide, despite delays in some areas and reports of problems with biometric systems used to identify voters in others. It was progressing smoothly.
Results are expected to start coming out later in the week, and with allegations of collusion by the losers almost inevitable, worried Kenyans will be holding their breath until then.
The two main contenders are distinguished not only by content, but also by style. Mr Ruto is a self-proclaimed champion of Kenya’s ‘hustlers’. They are frustrated young people, many of them poor, struggling to succeed in life. The slogan “Every Hustle Matters” is written on a glittering campaign vehicle.
Mr. Ruto has a reputation for being ruthless, but he is determined and ambitious. A decade ago, he was on trial at the International Criminal Court for orchestrating violence after his 2007 elections, which killed more than 1,200 people. The case fell apart in 2016 after the Kenyan government withdrew its cooperation and key witnesses withdrew their testimony.
A descendant of a storied Kenyan dynasty, Mr. Odinga offers a sense of familiarity and historical legitimacy that has been vying for high office since the 1990s. His repeated failed presidential campaigns fueled dissatisfaction among Kenya’s fourth-largest ethnic group, the Luo, who had never held the country’s top position. rice field.
He was widely praised for picking Martha Kahlua, a lawyer with a history of principled activism, as his running mate who, if elected, would become Kenya’s first female vice president.
But Odinga’s electoral success owes much to a political alliance known as the ‘handshake’ with President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018.
The deal ensured that Kenyatta of the dominant Kikuyu ethnic group would support Odinga, thus making him an enemy of Kenyatta’s deputy, Root.
The winner needs 50% of the votes plus 1 vote. But the third candidate, George Wajacoya, has campaigned on the marijuana legalization platform and, even more unusually, Selling hyena testicles to Chinawhich is said to have medicinal properties—might be a spoiler.
If Wajakoya can turn his estimated 3% base into votes in a single poll, he could negate a majority of leading candidates and push the ballot to the second round.