Macron’s campaign blitz: Raila has a similar strategy
Emmanuel Macron officially declared his candidacy in early March and unveiled his campaign platform. While other candidates had debated the future of France and met voters at local markets, Macron had not held any rallies and had rarely figured on the campaign trail as he was busy with the crisis in Ukraine. He carried a blitz campaign for less than a month and clinched a second and final term as France’s president, trouncing his nationalist-populist rival Marine Le Pen by 58.5 per cent to 41.5 per cent on April 24.
In Kenya, Raila Odinga, the Azimio-One Kenya presidential candidate can also be considered a late entrant in the campaign trail taking cognisance that his main challenger Deputy President William Ruto has technically been campaigning since 2018. In fact, to be more precise, Raila officially started his campaign after the ODM delegates' conference endorsement on February 24.
In America, presidential elections are absurdly long and can last 920 days and tend to wear out voters. That’s the length of time between when the first Democrat or Republican candidate declared candidacy and when voting actually began with the caucuses in February of the election year. While this lengthy period can be justified as they are used to articulate their manifesto, accommodate various interest groups and diversity of voters.
Political aim is a complex combination of selfishness and altruism, concern for justice, short-run and long run consideration. Raila has learnt to evolve, adapt and respond to political situations to his favour. He calculates his move, even though more often he does get the highest prize, he nevertheless gains political mileage.
The Pareto Principle states that for many phenomena 80 per cent of the result comes from 20 per cent of the effort. Looking at this from the Kenya political context and based on the longevity of campaigns, Raila has an upper hand compared to Ruto. While Raila has used 20 per cent effort to gain 80 per cent, Ruto on the other hand has used 80 per cent effort to gain 20 per cent. This projection is based on recent opinion polls—that Raila has been steadily gaining political momentum and is currently at par with Ruto.
The advantage Raila has over Ruto is he is going into areas that Ruto has campaigned before. Raila’s team has studied all the promises Ruto has made in the various parts, to counter them.
Because Raila has entered the campaign “late”, he has been able to study Ruto’s moves and the poaching of political community gatekeepers through inducement or otherwise. This is similar to chess in which experts have been successful at characterising optimal strategies near the end of the game. Once the chess board has only a small number of pieces on it, experts are able to look ahead to the end of the game and determine by ‘backward reasoning’ whether one side has a guaranteed win or draw.
Raila has gained his political support base because he has earned it through his many years for political inclusivity and democratic space. This equally applies to President Uhuru Kenyatta who earned political followers from central Kenya and to a larger extent most parts of Kenya when he showed his political mettle and prowess in handling the political upheavals that occurred in 2007/08 in the Rift Valley and other parts of Kenya.
William Ruto on the other hand has inherited his political base first from former President Moi and then from President Uhuru. Therefore, what Ruto has are not loyal political followers, but rather political voters who will only stick with him as long as he can fulfil their aspirations.
That is why Raila will have it easy to campaign in a shorter period because he does not need to rent a crowd unlike his competitor. He can study the strategy that Macron used to his advantage as he has the benefit of credible and respected political leaders in his camp who can undertake multiple political rallies across the country while he concentrates on swing vote areas.
— The writer works in Hong Kong