Three issues define the race to succeed President Mwai
Firstly, how the trials at the International Criminal Court
will affect political stability and the fortunes of two of the leading
presidential candidates, deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former
cabinet minister William Samoei Ruto.
Kenya’s courts have yet to decide if Kenyatta and Ruto
should be able to run in the presidential polls with their trials pending in
The Hague.
The two could have to seek a compromise candidate should
they be ineligible to run.
Secondly, the scramble for viable coalitions under the new
electoral rules means even more political horse trading than usual.

To win, a candidate must get more than 50% of the national
vote and at least 25% of the vote in half of the 47 counties.
The good intention behind this is to ensure the winner gets
the support of the widest range of ethnic and regional constituencies.
It also makes some strange bedfellows, leaving former deadly
foes to fight on the same ticket.
More than 1,500 people were killed in political violence
after the 2007 elections.
Thirdly, grassroots politics are radicalising fast.
These faultlines – youth discontent, Islamist mobilisation
and ethnic and clan rivalries over resources – could prove the most disruptive
during and immediately after the March 2013 election.
Watch the country’s vast north and the rise of separatist
politics at the Coast.
Much like the run-up to the 2007 elections, there are many
low-intensity conflicts in outlying districts.
And again, the national security machinery seems unable to
establish peace.
Kenyans go into the elections to choose between two broad
coalitions. On the right is the Uhuru-Ruto marriage.
Its political base is shaky: it was Ruto’s Kalenjin people
who fought with Kenyatta’s Kikuyu in the Rift Valley in the 2007 post-election
And both men now face criminal charges at The Hague for
their claimed role in promoting that violence.
They dismiss the accusations and now bizarrely share the
same political bed to the intense bafflement – if not fearsome anger – of their
grassroots supporters.
Such political chicanery has cost Ruto much support among
the Kalenjin, who have switched to backing prime minister Raila Odinga – now
endorsed by veteran Kalenjin leader and ex-President Daniel arap Moi.
Kenyatta’s supporters seem less perturbed by his political
twists: such is the loyalty to him and the memory of his father as Kenya’s
first president.
Kenyatta and Ruto’s bad marriage is the main obstacle to
Odinga’s aspirations.
Odinga claimed to have won the presidency in 2007 and has
been the frontrunner in the Kibaki succession race ever since.
En route, he has shed plenty of allies, such as Ruto and the
uninspiring deputy prime minister Musalia Mudavadi.
Odinga leads in the opinion polls but does not now have the
breadth of electoral support to win the presidency in the first round.
Odinga stays the frontrunner mainly because of his grip on
the Orange Democratic Movement, still the most popular party in the country and
brandishing its tarnished reform credentials.
No slouch at dealmaking, Odinga has been busy wooing
vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka and even Mudavadi’s United Democratic Front.
A second round of voting would favour Odinga.
Few Kalenjin would want to vote for Kenyatta after the 2007
Voters outside Kenyatta’s Mount Kenya enclave simply ask why
they should support a man facing an international trial for financing political
The new constitution means the electorate will be choosing
leaders at national (president and parliament) and county level (governors,
senators and women’s representatives).
The significance is that substantial powers of patronage and
decision-making have moved away from the old centralised executive presidency
to the 47 counties across the country.
Although from the bitterness of the political wrangling at
national level, it seems many of the leading politicians have yet to take
seriously this important change in political structure


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