Inside the mind of the undecided voter

Inside the mind of the undecided voter. Photo | Photosearch

What you need to know:

With the two top contenders placed within close margins, the undecided voters are critical to the final election outcome. Why are some people having a hard time making up their minds? We talked to four voters who could swing any way

Today at 6 pm, the official campaign period for one of the most hotly contested elections in Kenya’s history will come to an end. With the debates over and the pollsters having shelved their tools, the ball is now on the voter’s court.

In this year’s election, the Independent Electoral Board Commission (IEBC) cleared only four presidential contenders, a first since multi-party democracy in 1992. Deputy President William Ruto of the Kenya Kwanza coalition, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya are the front runners while David Mwaure of Agano Party and George Wajackoya of Roots Party are fringe presidential candidates (aspirants whose chances of passing a frontrunner are very slim.)


According to polls, 85 percent of Kenyans have decided on whom they are going to vote for but there is still a good number of fence-sitters. It is a paradox of sorts. Jean Buridan, a French philosopher called it the Buridan’s donkey—a donkey that is unable to choose between two bays of hays. Sad thing? It starves to death. The old African adage talks of a hyena who split in half when it couldn’t decide which path to take when it reached a crossroad.

Early this week (1st-3rd August), three polls (Tifa, Infotrak, Ipsos) placed the number of undecided voters as between 6-9 percent. The Ipsos poll indicated that undecided voters are mainly older females in rural areas and higher in the Western and Coast region. And while 85 percent of the 22.1 million voters within the country intend to vote, 15 percent are still dispirited for a number of reasons with the voter apathy being led by the youth (20 percent), followed by females (18 percent) and urbanites (17 percent). 

With the two top contenders placed within close margins, three polls released on Tuesday by Nation Media Group, Infotrak and Ipsos indicate that the first-round victory will depend on the undecided voters.

Undecided Voters

Are they decoupled from reality? Or are they frustrated? And will it take to make up their minds? We spoke to four voters who are struggling to make a decision.

‘I don’t trust any of the front runners’

Faith Muturi, 25, financial advisor, Nyeri county

Faith Muturi, 25, financial advisor. Photo | Pool

“I voted for the first-time in 2017. Then, I would not have participated in such an interview because there was clarity from the manifesto of the candidate that I was voting for. You could also say that as a first time voter, I was very excited.

In the previous election, Jubilee was campaigning for a “six piece” voting trend where voters elect candidates vying with the political party. This is exactly what I did.

It’s laughable. This is a situation of what I ordered versus what was delivered.  I am looking at failed projects—in all parts of the country. What the jubilee government promised 10 years ago, and did not deliver. I feel cheated and taken for granted.

I don’t trust any of the front runners. I am thinking, “Aren’t they cut from the same cloth?” Raila, Martha, Ruto and Gachagua have all served in public positions and I think they are just self-serving politicians who don’t care for the general public.

I cannot stomach Wajackoya from the Roots party. His manifesto is unrealistic and when people talk of his razzmatazz while on the campaign trail, I snigger. Studies show that there is a fine line between insanity and genius but his is quite blurred.

With Mwaure of the Agano party, my concern is that together with his running mate, they are just winging it. They are not confident in what they are saying or where we should go. Why should I vote for such leaders?

I struggle in believing what Kenya Kwanza are touting. It is a party led by two individuals who are wrapped in scandals.

Although I don’t have a particular person that I would have wanted on the ballot box, I was hoping that a Kenyan who is truthful, futuristic and has a realistic and comprehensible plan on how we are going to pull ourselves from debts would vie. It did not happen. Come Tuesday, I will probably make a decision on the voting line, that is, if I will be voting because I lack motivation.

Either way, whomever I vote for, we are in for a circus.”

‘The pollsters are not making it easier’

Kevin Odwar “balozi”, 36, paramedic, Nairobi County

Kevin Odwar, 36, paramedic. Photo | Pool

“I am a registered voter and a member of one of the political parties in Kenya. In the previous two elections, I was a decided voter and on the same page with my political party. Now that it is currently supporting Raila Odinga, I am stuck. I don’t have faith in his leadership. I am torn between being loyal to my political party and voting from my heart.

What makes this election different is the composition of the political sides. Who is in government? Who is in opposition?  The manifestos by the front runners are not making it easy for me, either. I like that the implementation is different but they are almost similar in terms of deliverables. Swamped at work, I haven’t had very much time to go in-depth on any so I am relying much on what’s out there on traditional and digital media. With fake news muddled into the issues, it is all so complicated.

Taking a look at the fringe candidates, I have a huge problem with Wajackoya. He stresses much on growing marijuana, which I believe will ultimately result in a marijuana-smoking country, a direction we should avoid.  I am hearing of Mwaure for the first time. He didn’t sound convincing during the presidential debate and comes off as someone without influence.

Given one second to choose, I would go with Ruto. He understands the pains and sufferings of the common mwananchi. However, I am disgruntled by his leadership over the past 10 years. He said that he had limited powers as Deputy President. I was like, “We should have seen you trying, you know.”

What I have seen in the past is that we either vote by euphoria or by heart.  The pollsters are not making it easier because they are not only confusing but some crooked firms are on the loose. I wish they were harmonised and collaborated to give a comprehensive outlook. This would have helped undecided voters like myself.

Speaking of being stuck, I have five childhood friends vying for Member of County Assembly (MCA) in the same ward. I’m probably going to close my eyes and tick a name.

Even as I struggle with whom to vote for, I like that the ethnicity veil is being brought down this year. Just because I belong to a particular tribe, I am not obligated to vote for my tribesman.”

‘In the remaining hours, I will be gauging their words, reading more about their candidacy’

Florence Nzau, 27, Administrator and leadership fellow, Kajiado county

Florence Nzau, Administrator and leadership fellow. Photo | Pool

“I am caught between a rock and a hard place. Reminiscing of the first time I cast my vote, I was filled with excitement. At that time, I adapted the “six-piece” voting trend —same political party from the top seat down to the MCA.

The interesting bit which has led me to this quagmire is that there is no change. The same people that were on the campaign trails are still the same. Five years ago, things were better in terms of the cost of living. This not to negate the good things that have happened —infrastructure and such but there is more harm than good.

This time, it’s a choice between two evils. I have had an opportunity to go through the front runners’ manifestos and there’s redundancy. We have heard and read the same lines before. Yet, even after being in government in one way or another, they have not lived up to my expectations. So, why would I believe them again? I remember reading the policy statements and I was like, “whaaat! Why are we being fooled again?”

When we come to the two other candidates, Wajackoya has a great manifesto. There is a practicability aspect to it and he addresses the issue of the economy and unemployment. But he is coming on board with solutions that don’t align with our African and religious values.  He is relating very well with a big fraction of millennials and generation Z but these values (which I am calling as he does) are unacceptable—hanging the corrupt, growing bhang. He is a man with solutions but the repercussions are dire.

 One question that I am hearing often is, “You are a Christian, why don’t you vote in the man of the cloth?”  My problem with Mwaure is that I have not seen the practicability of his deliverables. It would not be right for me to vote him in just because he is a clergyman.

 I would have wanted to see change in this year’s election. Someone with practical solutions and one who brings unity and inclusivity. Notably, gender withstanding.

In the remaining hours, I will be gauging their words, reading more about their candidacy and hopefully make a decision by Tuesday morning. Even as an undecided voter, voting is a must because it is a constitutional right and a key driver of change.”

‘I voted along ethnic lines before, but now I want someone who solves Kenya’s problems’

Eric Mukono, 24, Functional Consultant, Kirinyaga County

Eric Mukono, 24, financial consultant. Photo | Pool

“In 2017, the first time I voted, I considered my ethnic background. Right now I am more informed and looking at it from the perspective of how the choice I make will affect me as a Kenyan. And most importantly, what they are bringing on board as a solution to the problems that ail the country.

I feel that the two leading presidential candidates have the solutions. What is putting me at crossroads is that on one hand, Azimio, has a perfect way of dealing with corruption, based on their talks but they lack a clear plan on how to lift the economic status of the country.

On the other hand, Kenya Kwanza have a plan to empower bodies that fight corruption but have no elaborate plan on how to directly deal with the menace. On a positive note, they have a very detailed plan of how they will lift the economy.  I see the benefits of both sides.

I think that Wajackoya is a joker and does not have an economic agenda. He seems to have an idea of what the position of a president entails but not the presidency itself. I think we would be burdening him with the tasks.  Mwaure is completely off my list. His proposal to cut PAYE is not only absurd but also laughable. I feel that he needs more time to understand the problems and solutions we need.

Early this year, I was convinced that I was going to vote for Kenya Kwanza. The announcement of Rigathi Gachagua as the running mate almost made me eat my own words. I cannot stomach Gachagua. He has been mentioned in a number of corruption cases. Also, there’s a way he talks, that’s scary and I can’t trust him with running the nation, in the unfortunate event that the president dies.

Martha Karua is a very effective leader and I would have wished to see her as Azimio’s flag bearer or just a Martha Karua ticket with somebody else. I come from a county where I have benefited from her leadership. However, I am unsure of her leadership as the deputy president.

I wish there was a way I could vote for both Ruto and Raila but whoever I end up voting for and the outcome of the final results, I will be content.”

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