Kenya election: Voters head to polls in tight election



NAIROBI — Kenyans are heading to the polls Tuesday in a hotly contested presidential election pitting two of the international locations most distinguished politicians in opposition to one another.

Former prime minister Raila Odinga, 77, who’s making his fifth bid for the nation’s highest workplace, says he desires to root out corruption, funnel cash to Kenya’s poorest residents and implement reforms to deal with the skyrocketing costs of meals and gasoline on this East African nation. The left-leaning veteran opposition chief has the backing of term-limited President Uhuru Kenyatta, a former adversary with whom he shaped an alliance in 2018.

Deputy President William Ruto, 55, argues that he’ll higher characterize Kenya’s poor with a “bottom-up” financial mannequin focused towards small companies and addressing unemployment — he typically describes how he turned profitable solely after working as a hen farmer in his youth. Ruto, who publicly fell out with Kenyatta throughout their second time period in authorities, has tried to border the election as a contest between “hustlers” like himself and “dynasties” like these of the Kenyattas and Odingas.

Kenya’s Raila Odinga and William Ruto are in a good race forward of the presidential election on Aug. 9. (Video: The Washington Submit)

Analysts predict that the election could possibly be one of many closest in latest historical past. A runoff vote could be triggered if neither candidate reaches a 50 p.c majority — which may depend upon the success of a 3rd candidate, George Wajackoyah, whose platform is constructed round legalizing medicinal marijuana. Whereas a few of Wajackoyah’s concepts are seen as outlandish — together with exporting hyena testicles — the reggae-loving professor has gained passionate followers.

The winner of Tuesday’s election must handle the nation’s large debt, hovering inflation, a drought within the north that has left thousands and thousands hungry, and rising youth unemployment. Many citizens are disenchanted, not sure whether or not both Odinga or Ruto will deliver change.

“Politicians are all the identical,” mentioned Mark Otieno, 27, who was attending a Ruto rally Saturday in Nairobi. He mentioned he has been unemployed for 4 years regardless of having a university diploma. “These persons are first politicians, individuals after their very own pursuits.”

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The election can be intently watched inside Kenya and overseas, together with in Washington. Kenya has been an vital counterterrorism ally of the USA and a supply of stability within the area. The nation has a protracted historical past of election-related turmoil, with post-election violence in 2008 leaving greater than 1,000 useless and 600,000 displaced. The newest election, which pitted Odinga in opposition to Kenyatta in 2017, was marred by road riots and a protracted interval of turbulence after a botched vote. Odinga challenged the ends in the nation’s Supreme Court docket, and the judges ordered a rerun. Odinga additionally misplaced the second vote.

This yr, each Odinga and Ruto have publicly raised issues with the Impartial Electoral and Boundaries Fee, the physique charged with overseeing the election, citing points together with technical preparedness and the disappearance of voters from the registry. However each have additionally mentioned they’ll settle for the election outcomes.

“If I lose pretty, I would be the first to concede defeat,” Odinga mentioned in an interview at his mansion in Kisumu, in western Kenya. “But when it’s not honest, then I’ll comply with the traditional channels to deal with the problems.”

In latest days, each tickets have stuffed stadiums with energized supporters. In Kisumu, Odinga’s hometown, his followers held a large gavel to represent the justice they imagine Odinga and his operating mate, Martha Karua, will deliver. Karua could be the primary girl to function Kenya’s deputy president.

Standing within the sea of orange, the colour of Odinga’s social gathering, Daniel Liech, 68, mentioned the previous prime minister’s second has arrived, after years of battle that included serving as a political prisoner within the Nineteen Eighties. That historical past is vital, mentioned Liech, including: “We wish to help him this final time.”

At a rally for Ruto in Nairobi on Saturday, followers danced to hits together with his marketing campaign anthem, “Sipangwingwi,” and waved indicators with the deputy president’s face on them. Some wore yellow shirts that mentioned “Freedom is coming.” Kefa Simiyu Wanyonyi, 33, who’s unemployed, mentioned he hoped that beneath Ruto — whom he sees as one of the best advocate for the youth and the poor — he would get a job.

“We’ve hustled so lengthy,” he mentioned, “and now we’ve got somebody who says that he can see us, that he can see our struggles, that he’ll assist us.”

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