Kenyans vote Tuesday to choose a successor to President Uhuru Kenyatta. The race is close and could go to a runoff for the first time.
One top candidate is Raila Odinga, an opposition leader in his fifth run for the presidency who is being supported by former rival Kenyatta. The other is William Ruto, Kenyatta’s deputy who fell out with the president earlier in their decade in power.
Both tend to focus far more on domestic issues, raising the question of how either will follow up on Kenyatta’s diplomatic efforts for calm in neighboring Ethiopia or in the tensions between Rwanda and Congo.
Kenya is East Africa’s economic hub and home to about 56 million people. The country has a recent history of turbulent elections. Even then, it stands out for its relative stability in a region where some elections are deeply challenged and longtime leaders such as Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have been declared the winner with almost 99% of votes, or been widely accused of physically cracking down on contenders.
Kenya has no transparency in campaign donations or spending. Some candidates for Parliament and other posts are estimated to be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain access to power and its benefits, both legal and illegal.
What are the main candidates’ platforms?
The 55-year-old Ruto promotes himself to the young and poor as a “hustler” who rose from humble beginnings as a chicken seller in contrast to the elite backgrounds of Kenyatta and Odinga. He seeks greater agricultural productivity and financial inclusion. Agriculture is a main driver of Kenya’s economy and about 70% of the rural workforce is in farming.
The 77-year-old Odinga, famous for being jailed while fighting for multi-party democracy decades ago, has promised cash handouts to Kenya’s poorest and more accessible health care for all.