Some of it is a problem of electoral mathematics; some of it comes down to a lack of available talent; and some of it comes to a change in Kenya’s political equation occasioned by the new constitution and electoral rules. Either way, to become Kenya’s next president, Raila Odinga needs to find a vice-presidential candidate who will help bring in votes on polling day. And time is running out to find the right man or women for the job.
GETTING TO 50 PER CENT PLUS ONE
The opinion polls vary but the Prime Minister probably commands somewhere around 36 per cent of the vote (if the election were to be held tomorrow) but that is not enough to win the presidential election outright in the first round, for which he needs to secure 50 per cent plus one vote to win. Pulling together the required 14 per cent or more that he needs to gain victory in the second round of voting will not be a straightforward task.
‘SWING VOTERS’ AND TRIBAL ALLIANCES
There are two ways that Raila Odinga’s team can look at solving the problem and in truth they will be considering a combination of the two.
First, Odinga’s team will try to win over ‘swing voters’, those who may not vote for him in the first round but when it comes to a choice between him and one other candidate will be prepared to switch allegiance. Tending to be younger, more educated urban voters they will make their decision on the basis of who will be the best person for the job, not so much on what tribe or region Odinga, or his opponent comes from.
But there we have mentioned that word, ‘tribe’, and whatever we might like to think about modern-day Kenya we all know that it is a vital factor in deciding the next election.
TRIBAL DEMOGRAPHICS IN KENYA
Raila Odinga is a Luo and his tribe makes up some 10 per cent of Kenya’s population. He can expect considerable levels of support from the Luhya (14 per cent of the population) if his opponent is the Kikuyu Uhuru Kenyatta, less so if his opponent is Musalia Mudavadi, himself a Luyha.
Thereafter, in tribal terms, where will his support come from?
Raila may well receive good support from the Kamba (10 per cent of the population) especially if Charity Ngilu returns to his fold and lends him her support but the Kisii (6 per cent), Mikikenda (5 per cent) and Meru (4 per cent) are likely to lean towards a Kenyatta candidature.
THE KALENJIN FACTOR
The Kalenjin (13 per cent of the population), the key voting group from the Rift Valley, probably hold the key to electoral success. They would perhaps, given the long-running animosity with the Kikuyu principally over the question of land, have been expected to back a non-Kikuyu candidate, i.e., not Uhuru Kenyatta, but the presence of William Ruto and others in the region as a political force makes it less likely that they will support Raila Odinga.
UHURU KENYATTA OR WILLIAM RUTO?
However you look at it, as the Kenya Forum has pointed out before (search ‘Raila Odinga opinion polls’ via the ‘Find things in Kenyaforum’ box, top right of this page), the figures to secure victory in a second round of voting do not, as yet, quite add up for Raila Odinga, a fact that both he and his election team are only too well aware. Hence, as we reported yesterday, the previously unlikely scenario that he will attempt to a do a deal with either Uhuru Kenyatta or William Ruto to run as his vice-presidential candidate.
The Odinga-Kenyatta, or Odinga-Ruto ticket is an idea, according to The Standard on Saturday last weekend, being promoted by
cabinet ministers Dalmas Otieno, James Orengo, and Henry Kosgey.
Raila Odinga’s political advisors are said to be looking at several options as to a vice-presidential candidate for him that include Henry Kosgey, Sally Kosgei, Kenneth Marende, Margaret Wanjiru and Franklin Bett. Of these only Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Chairman Henry Kosgey, a Nandi, would appear to have the political clout to substantially assist Odinga’s cause by gathering support from the Rift Valley.
Of course all these, admittedly crude calculations, would change if Raila Odinga’s opponent in the second round of voting was to be someone other than Uhuru Kenyatta, Musalia Mudavadi, for example.
THE CLOCK IS TICKING…
Kenya’s political parties will have to have their list of candidates for internal primary elections ready by January. Vice-presidential running mates will have to be named at least 45 days before the election and by then they will have to be in the same party. So the clock is ticking for Raila Odinga to find a political bride to lead to the election alter next March.