In the final days of campaigning, the clear frontrunners to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta are deputy president William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga – who has Kenyatta’s public backing following a well-publicised rift with his lieutenant.
Final polls released before election day suggest Odinga is on track to win, but last minute surprises in the last few days of the campaign season suggest nothing is guaranteed.
A nationally-televised debate between Ruto and Odinga on July 26 descended into farce when Odinga refused to take the stage alongside his rival, leaving Ruto to answer 90 minutes of questions in a performance that some analysts say failed to address voters’ concerns.
And that list of worries among the public is long, from the ever-increasing cost of living and high unemployment amid economic inequality, to endemic political corruption. The country has been battered by drought, while public debt has soared to more than two-thirds of GDP. While voter apathy is widespread, there are now signs that public support is growing for other presidential candidates. A recent spike in public support for George Wajackoyah – who nonetheless remains a distant third – could carry through to the ballot box and deny Odinga and Ruto the fifty percent plus one result they each need to avoid an unprecedented second round of voting.
Ruto has sought to connect with poor voters by characterising himself as a "hustler" taking on "dynasties" represented by Odinga and Kenyatta - in a clear break with politics long contested along the lines of ethnicity. But while major political candidates get widespread television coverage, grassroots politicians face a struggle for wider recognition. Female candidates running for political office report widespread abuse that often escalates into physical attacks.
In this episode of The Stream, we'll look at what lies ahead for Kenya on the eve of a closely-fought election.
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