August presidential election ‘likely to be won in round one’

The August 9 presidential election is likely to be won on a first round knockout, despite opinion polls showing Mr William Ruto and Mr Raila Odinga presently tied in a dead heat.

The Nation Media Group opinion poll conducted on May 8 and 9 showed Mr Ruto and the ODM leader tied at 42 per cent of the vote each.

Some 10 per cent of the voters were undecided, 5 per cent refused to answer and 1 per cent opted for ‘other’ candidates.

If this trend holds until polling day, it means that the two main candidates will emerge with 50 per cent of the vote each.

An exact numerical tie would be almost impossible, so the winner will be the one who gets the 50 per cent vote, plus a single additional vote. Apart from the 50 per cent plus 1 rule, the other threshold a presidential candidate must cross for one to be declared victor is securing a minimum of 25 per cent or more of the votes cast in at least half of Kenya’s 47 counties.

Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga emerging with 50 per cent of the votes each presumes that the undecided votes once cast are shared equally. But whichever way it tilts, even slightly, it will catapult the beneficiary past the 50 per cent benchmark.

The only way this scenario might be upset is a significant proportion of the undecided vote once cast goes not to Dr Ruto of the Kenya Kwanza alliance or Mr Odinga of the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition, but another of the myriad fringe parties and independent aspirants.

The “Nation” and all other opinion polls conducted in the past six months show that the combined votes of the other candidates do not reach the one per cent mark.

This one per cent will only be significant enough to force a run-off if, in the unlikely event, it is enough to restrict the two main contestants marginally under the 50 per cent mark each.

The other declared presidential aspirants who have so far caught some media attention include ‘legalise marijuana’ campaigner George Wajackoyah, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria, Gospel artist Reuben Kigame and businessman Jimi Wanjigi.

There are also a large number, some 47 at last count, of mostly anonymous aspirants who have expressed interest in running as independents. Chances are that no more than five or six of the independents will a raise the requisite number of supporters to qualify for the ballot paper.

As it is, in any case, the entire galaxy of small parties and independents who have declared presidential ambitions have so far not been able, either individually or collectively, to secure one percent of the total vote.

At the 2013 elections, the Jubilee ticket of Uhuru and Ruto just managed to cross the 50 per cent threshold with 50.51 per cent of the vote to the 44.73 for Raila and Kalonzo.

The votes cast for both candidates represented some 95 per cent of the total, leaving 5 per cent to be shared amongst the other candidates.

In the disputed and eventually annulled election of 2017, Uhuru-Ruto improved their tally to 54.17 per cent to Raila-Kalonzo’s 44.94, leaving 1 per cent of the vote to be shared amongst the rest.

Another past election which would be of interest was in 2007, though under the old constitution when the 50 per cent plus one rule did not apply. President Mwai Kibaki secured re-election with 46.42 percent of the vote to Mr Odinga’s 44.07.

A third presidential candidate, Kalonzo, secured nearly 9 per cent of the vote. If the 50 per cent rule had been in play then, that is the kind of impact needed for a third party candidate to force a run-off.

None of the other aspirants have so far displayed the possibility to deliver that kind of impact.

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