The latest opinion ‘popularity poll’ results from Infotrak Research & Consulting appear on the surface to suggest little change in Kenyan voting intentions and attitudes but look more closely at the numbers and they reveal much more.
THE HEADLINE FIGURES
First the headline figures, the ones we all look out for.
If there was an election tomorrow the Infotrak poll suggests 35.4 per cent of Kenyan voters would support Raila Odinga for president, 24 per cent Uhuru Kenyatta, 10.3 per cent William Ruto, 10 per cent Musalia Mudavadi, 8.8 per cent Kalonzo Musyoka, 4.3 per cent Martha Karua and the rest of the field would garner under two per cent of the vote each.
Those figures do not suggest a huge amount of change over recent polls but remember this: an opinion poll is a snapshot in time, it tells us, or at least indicates, how people would vote now and how they feel now but what’s important to understanding the relevance of an opinion poll is the trend or trends that a series of polls show over time. A candidate may be on 50 per cent of the vote, for example, but is he on the way up or down? Was he on 45 per cent of the vote in the last poll? In which case 50 per cent now is good, or was he on 55 per cent of the vote in the last poll? In which case 50 per cent now is bad news for him.
TRENDS, FLAT LINES AND MOMENTUM
Looking at the last three Infotrak polls (May, June and now October) and it’s clear that most of the candidates are flat lining.
Raila Odinga recorded 35, 36.6 and 35.4 per cent in those polls. William Ruto ran up figures of 9.9, 9.4 and 10.3 per cent – pretty much flat lining. Kalonzo Musyoka 8.8, 9.6 and back to 8.8 per cent, and Musalia Mudavadi 8.5, 8.4 and 10 per cent – flat lining. It’s the same for the more minor candidates (voting-intention wise) – no change. Only one candidate is not where he was in May 2012 and that’s Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenyatta’s poll ratings when people were asked who they would vote for if the election had been held in May, June and October of this year, read 17.3, 21.9 and 24 per cent, an increase over the period of 6.7 per cent: not that much but an increase nonetheless.
TWO ROUND ELECTION
So some momentum for Kenyatta but the Infotrak polling figures reveal more importantly that Kenya is in for a two-round election: no one candidate is going to get 50 per cent plus one vote to win in the first round.
So where are the two candidates going to get the votes they need in the second round to top their first round figure up to and over the 50 per cent line in the second round? That question brings us to a small but very startling figure revealed in this latest opinion poll.
Infotrak’s data suggests that only 1.9 per cent of Kenyan voters are classified as ‘undecided’. The other 98.1 per cent of voters have made up their mind as to who they would vote for. That is a staggering figure with serious implications for the election.
In other elections in other countries one would expect, with over five months still to go before polling day, to see an ‘undecided’ figure of 15 per cent or more. What the ‘undecided’ result in this poll shows is that for one of the candidates in Kenya’s next presidential election to get over the 50 per cent winning threshold he will have to make an alliance with another voting block or blocks, there’s just no slack in the voting intentions of Kenyans to make up the ground by persuading the ‘undecided’ to move over to his camp.
Well that’s perhaps no big surprise but try this: asked which political party they favoured and respondents in the Infotrak poll said 39 per cent for ODM, 25 per cent TNA, 11 per cent URP, 10 per cent UDF, seven per cent WDM, three per cent NARK-K and the rest of the parties polled one per cent or less. Asked to give their reasons for supporting a particular party, most respondents replied, citing among other factors, that the party of their choice was “non-tribal”. Rubbish!
Cross reference that voting intention sentiment with the support for each candidate by region and you get a very different picture.
KENYA’S ELECTION – IT’S ABOUT THE TRIBE STUPID
Raila Odinga’s support in Central Region stands at 16 per cent but 66 per cent in Nyanza. Uhuru Kenyatta gets three per cent support in Western Region but 66 per cent in Central. William Ruto 29 per cent support in Rift Valley and one per cent in Central. Musalia Mudavadi has 44 per cent support in Western Region but only three or four per cent in most other regions. So it goes on. Are you getting the picture?
THE CONCLUSION IS…
What can we conclude?
Kenya is divided. It’s going to be a two-round election. Kenya will vote by tribe. To win, a candidate will have to put together a tribal alliance in his support. And the potential tragedy is that however you work the figures, whoever wins will only do so by a small margin, perhaps 52 to 48 per cent of the vote.
A tragedy? Yes, because if Kenya’s next presidential election is that close the potential for another round of post-election violence will be considerable.