Packed campaign itinerary for top two as State House race tightens
With opinion polls showing that Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza and Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga are locked in a tight race for State House, the two front-runners have lined up a gruelling itinerary of rallies to win over the three million voters said to be still undecided.
Ruto has planned at least 80 rallies across the country between today and August 5 when he will host the final mega rally at Kamukunji Grounds in Nairobi.
Raila and his Azimio-One Kenya team have set themselves a target of over 90 events in the next 24 days. Raila is likely to hold his final rally in either Nairobi or Nakuru.
The official campaign period will close on August 6, meaning that each of the two teams will have at least five rallies or political events a day until the campaign window closes.
Azimio Council Secretary Junet Mohamed says Raila’s campaign plans to address a minimum of four rallies daily for the remaining period. This is in addition to town hall meetings.
Ruto, meanwhile, intends to take his troops on a marathon campaign tour all over the country, in the quest to rally his supporters to turn out in large numbers on election day.
Opinion polls show Ruto trailing Raila by between three and six per cent, with most of the recent polls having a margin of error of 2.5 per cent. This basically means the race is a dead heat and is likely to be decided by turnout.
“The remaining days will be a defining period for us. We have to reach all areas and sell our policies to our supporters,” said Junet.
The Suna East MP said Azimio leaders will split into three groups that will be spread out in Nairobi, Nakuru, Western, North Eastern and Ukambani regions.
An Infrotrack poll released on Wednesday indicated that Nakuru and Bungoma are battleground counties.
It also indicated that Raila’s fortunes in Ukambani had increased due to the return of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka to Azimio.
In the finals days of campaigns, Azimio leaders will take their message to Meru, Embu and Central Kenya before heading to Raila’s Nyanza stronghold.
On the other hand, a campaign schedule seen by People Daily indicates a tight schedule for Ruto. It involves holding as many as five rallies a day, all in a race to beat Raila to the finishing line on August 9.
From the schedule, Ruto, also the Kenya Kwanza Alliance leader, will be visiting at least 46 counties between today and August 5, meaning his team plans to cover the whole country before Kenyans cast their ballots to decide who will succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The President, who is supporting Raila, has in the past warned Ruto of a gruelling campaign, once describing the quest for the presidency as “a marathon”.
A marathon is by nature a battle of wits. With 24 days to the finish line, the rubber of politics is expected to meet the road of heightened campaigns in some of Kenya’s toughest battleground counties.
Yesterday, Ruto said he was ready for the final stretch of the electioneering period, dismissing those he said had labelled him “an angry DP” as having sensed defeat.
“They are saying I’m angry. Why shouldn’t I be angry when Kenyans are suffering?,” he asked at a rally in Kisii.
“You can smile because you are not familiar with what Kenyans are going through but if the cost of fertiliser has gone up to Sh6,000 and unga is Sh200, is that something to smile about?”
After his whirlwind tour of Kisii, he moved to Narok, Migori and Nyamira before heading to Kiambu today and tomorrow. On Sunday and Monday, he will be campaigning in Nairobi from where his campaign caravan will then head to Kitui and Machakos on Tuesday and the Coast region for about three days.
From the Coast, he will head to Kajiado and Narok where his support has turned shaky in the last few weeks. Two opinion polls released this week showed his popularity was waning in the two counties. The polls by Trends and Insights for Africa and Infotrak showed that Raila was gaining significantly in the area.
Significantly, Ruto is expected to hold a mega rally at Kapkatet Stadium in Kericho on July 24 and another in Eldoret town on August 1. These being his strongholds, he is expected to demonstrate he enjoys solid support in his base.
But he cannot rest easy. Azimio leaders in the Rift are targeting at least one million votes for Raila in the cosmopolitan region with several toss-up counties, including Nakuru, Samburu and Narok.
Raila remains favourite in four battleground counties
Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga enjoys at least 50 per cent support in four of the counties considered battlegrounds, a new poll by Trends and Insights for Africa (TIFA) indicates.
The poll found Raila was the most preferred presidential candidate in Kisii, Nyamira, Trans Nzoia and Isiolo, four counties considered battlegrounds owing to their past voting trends.
In Murang’a, however, where another poll was done at the same time, Deputy President William Ruto continues to enjoy higher support despite efforts by the Azimio coalition to dent his chances in the Mt Kenya region.
According to the pollsters, a county can be categorized as a battleground if none of the candidates has failed to open a clear gap over their opponents or if the number of undecided voters is high.
The Tifa polls conducted in each of the counties on diverse dates between June 28 and July 7 found Azimio's leader would gain more votes than his main opponent Ruto who has eyed the counties as some of those he can garner more votes to add to his basket.
Both have made numerous visits to the areas hoping to sway the thousands of undecided voters to their sides before the August 9 General Election.
In Isiolo, where the two leaders visited in the last one month, the survey found Raila ahead with 50 per cent with Ruto following at 42 per cent. Roots party candidate George Wajackoyah has three percent support. Despite Raila enjoying a higher support, Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance is the most popular in the region with 32 percent followed by Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement (27 per cent) and the ruling party, Jubilee (22 per cent).
The county has 89,504 voters.
In Kisii where the pollster interviewed 516 residents between July 5 and 7, Raila is also ahead with 61 per cent support with Ruto a distant second with 20 per cent although the county registered a considerably high undecided number of undecided voters at 17 per cent.
In the neighbouring Nyamira County where Tifa spoke to 626 residents during the same period, Raila is also ahead after getting 58 per cent support and Ruto, 26 per cent, although the devolved unit is also home to 17 per cent of the undecided.
The two counties are among those closely eyed by the presidential candidates as they are home to a total of 960, 293 voters.
Ruto was in Kisii on Wednesday and Nyamira on Thursday to rally the residents to support his bid and he plans to go back to the region for a series of rallies before the voting day. Speaking in Magombo in Nyamira, he said his Bottom-Up economic model was the best for the country urging the residents to turn out in large numbers and vote for him.
“The model is all about expanding the prosperity of ordinary Kenyans. We will do this through the expansion of opportunities in agriculture, small businesses and the delivery of critical social services such as healthcare and education without discrimination,” said the DP.
Raila is also planning to make more visits to the region to lock it up before August 9.
When he was in the region weeks ago, he asked the voters to ensure they voted for him saying the Azimio administration will improve their lives.“We have a reason and the will to bring change to our country. We want to liberate the country,” Raila said.
In Trans Nzoia, where Ruto had been trying to make inroads after striking a coalition agreement with Ford Kenya, the party that has enjoyed greater support in the region since 2013, Raila enjoys more support with 52 per cent, Ruto at 34 per cent and Wajackoyah with 1 per cent. The undecided voters are 13 per cent.
“It will be our role as Kenya Kwanza government to grow small enterprises as well empower maize farmers in Kitalale and Kipetenden of Trans Nzoia as they form the basis of progressive Bottom-Up Economic plan that seeks to drive our growth,” said the DP who has acquired the support of the outgoing Governor Patrick Khaemba.