Raila outsmarts Ruto as titanic poll battles intensify
Opinion polls are the closest to the most accurate method for collecting information about the views of a given group of people.
The commonest application has been adopted in gauging the popularity of candidates ahead of elections. Information from an opinion poll can shed light on and potentially allow inferences to be drawn about certain attributes of a larger population, for example, voters.
While the accuracy of the outcomes of opinion polls in Kenya may not be as precise as those in advanced democracies, the predictability levels have not been far off the mark.
Despite the complex nature of Kenyan politics due to contradictions including ethnicity and political machinations, the latest opinion polls confirm Kenya is not peculiar to this scientific pollsters’ method.
Tifa Research findings last Wednesday revealed that Azimio flagbearer Raila Odinga was most favoured by 39 per cent of voters compared to Deputy President (DP) William Ruto at 35 per cent.
The Tifa survey has caused political ripples. For a long time, Ruto, who started campaigning in 2018, had led Raila in opinion polls, including in the last Tifa poll of April 10. This poll showed the DP with 39 per cent against Raila’s 32 per cent.
The picture changed dramatically when a Nation Media Group opinion poll on May 12 put the two candidates in a dead heat of 42 per cent each.
These poll surveys indicate the two “leading horses” are yet to meet the constitutional threshold of 50+1 per cent for an outright win to avoid a runoff.
That is why Tifa’s result of 14 per cent of respondents yet to decide and another nine per cent (total 23 per cent) unwilling to say who their preferred choice is, has forced a major rethink.
The poll turnaround climaxed last week when Raila-a master strategist, pulled off a major political coup by unveiling former Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua as his running mate, unsettling the ethnic equation in the vote-rich Mt Kenya region.
Raila’s choice of the ‘Iron Lady’ has also introduced a new gender empowerment dimension in the election race, banking heavily on the women’s vote to tilt the balance for the 50+1 benchmark.
Ruto’s choice of Rigathi Gachagua may not dramatically affect his base in Mt Kenya, but it does not excite other regional, ethnic and gender demographics. Karua’s entry has certainly added something from the mountain to the “Baba na Mama” basket. How much, remains to be seen.
The Kenya Kwanza team’s undoing is their obsession with demeaning public attacks on their uncharacteristically rather restrained yet strategic opponents – not sparing even President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has openly stated his preference for Raila.
This approach could boomerang spectacularly should the Azimio brigade turn their guns on their adversaries, especially on matters relating to ethics and integrity.
By constantly derisively referring to him as “yule mzee wa kitendawili” (that old man of riddles”), the DP and his allies may attract another surprise riddle from Raila the political tactician and his Handshake brother, who have constantly cautioned their rivals saying: “Ukiona simba amenyeshewa, usifikiri ni paka.” (If you see a lion rained on, don’t imagine it is a domestic cat.”)
The President has reminded opponents that the succession race is not a sprint but a marathon and that the “mzee” could yet overtake the DP. Well, the latest Tifa poll may just be a pointer.
—The writer is a veteran journalist who comments on political and justice issues—[email protected]