Raila, Ruto shift focus to voter turnout a week to titanic battle

Raila Odinga, William Ruto

Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga (left) and his Kenya Kwanza counterpart William Ruto.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

With a week to the August 9 polls, both Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio candidate Raila Odinga have changed their campaign messaging to focus on voter turn-out on election day.

Unlike when official campaign period for the 2022 General Election began on May 30, Kenya Kwanza Alliance (KKA) of Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja One Kenya were concentrating on selling their manifestos, now they are using their time to ask their supporters turn up in large numbers on August 9.

So important is the turnout that the Azimio supremo has launched a crusade dubbed Rauka Movement, to mobilise voters to wake up early and vote overwhelmingly for the coalition. He continued with the message on Friday in Machakos. “This is to ensure we mobilise all our supporters to turn up in large numbers and vote for the Raila-Martha ticket on August 9,” said Mr Odinga.

Azimio is targeting 15 million votes, hence the need to overcome voter apathy in its strongholds. “Baba and Martha are a prime brand; people are receiving them very well. We are finishing at 15 million strong,” said Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege, who is a member of the Azimio’s supreme council, yesterday.

DP Ruto has adopted the same approach and has recently been using the local dialect in his backyard to explain why they need to wake up very early on voting day.

On Friday in Nandi, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) presidential candidate, told locals that no one should be left behind when it comes to voting.

“I would like to thank you for standing with me always up to where I have reached as Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya. We have another opportunity to form the next government and for this to happen, let us have a 100 per cent turnout on election day,” said Dr Ruto.

Yesterday, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargey told Sunday Nation that because they are determined to trounce the Azimio team, they are rallying their supporters to give them a high turnout.

“We are pushing for a 100 per cent turnout in our strongholds. This means the aged and those who are sick will be helped to get to the polling stations so that we get victory. In our strongholds, we are not going to have an 80 or 90 per cent turnout but 100 per cent,” he said.

Political pundits have argued that both Kenya Kwanza and Azimio need to inspire voters in this last lap because voter apathy might work to their disadvantage.

Political commentator Martin Andati opines that what transpired during the UDA nominations should worry the DP’s camp. “Both the Azimio team and UDA must put their act together and rally the troops for a massive turnout in their strongholds for them to win comfortably.

“Compared to 2017, the turnout during UDA nominations was pretty low, a sure sign that there is going to be a very serious voter apathy on the mountain and that would be catastrophic for Ruto,” he said.

Political commentator and governance expert Javas Bigambo said voter apathy has to worry presidential candidates and in case they do not come up with an agenda that inspires people to vote, the polls could be characterised by low turnout.

“The failure by the electoral agency to achieve even 50 per cent of projected new voters recently was a clearest indication that actual political participation on August 9 General Election may be lower than hoped for, and political seduction on the part of candidates will be vital to create enthusiasm among the people.”