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Kenya's Election May Reflect New Patterns - Analysts

FILE: Professor George Wajackoya, one of four presidential candidates in Kenya's 2022 elections. Image courtesy VOA Swahili 7.3.2022
FILE: Professor George Wajackoya, one of four presidential candidates in Kenya's 2022 elections. Image courtesy VOA Swahili 7.3.2022

Historically, voters in one of East Africa's thriving economies have cast ballots along ethnic and tribal lines, but now a shift in voting pattern has opened political space for new voices. Analysts are divided on whether traditional patterns will likely influence the August 9 general elections.

Egara Kabaji, professor at the Masinde University of Science & Technology told VOA that ethnicity has played a major role in local politics - a phenomenon which he said has characterized elections for years and has, in good measure, helped determine who got Kenya's top job.

He regrets that when ballots are cast on August 9, "We can almost be sure that ethnicity will play a significant role.''

But Kabaji said that this year's choice will see voters affirm a candidate they believe has integrity and a willingness to promote regional inclusivity.

''Some regions think that the government has excluded them from what's happening in the country in terms of development.," he said, adding "And therefore, they're looking at a (candidate) who will guarantee that he or she is going to include them especially with issues of development and governance."

But political analyst Joe Kobuthi disagrees. He told VOA from Nairobi that there's a shift from tribalism underway.

''As the nation gets older, certain political and socio-economic changes are shifting Kenyans attitudes towards tribalism'', he said, emphasizing that ''the 2010 constitution of Kenya opened up a new civic space that introduced new forms of (grassroots) organizations that were absent. This has shifted the tribalistic voting pattern.''

Kobuthi also points to the surging presence of young Kenyan voters, noting that ''New media has also significantly shaped political socialization particularly amongst Kenyan youths, coupled with the choice of a female deputy presidential candidate by the (Orange Democratic Movement) opposition party led by Raila Odinga."

Along with Odinga, there are three others vying for Kenya's top office: Deputy President William Ruto, leader of the United Democratic Alliance party, George Wajackoyah, leader of Roots Party of Kenya, and the Agano party's David Waihiga Mwaure.

Analyst Kabaji says voters will be making a decision on election day based on the current cost of living in the country. Rising food and fuel prices has been dealing a big blow to consumers as drought exacerbates the hunger crisis facing East African nations including Kenya.

Ruto is playing to inflation and food security concerns, promising that he will bring the cost of living down in his first one hundred days in office and promote more local food growing to lessen import dependency.

His prime opponent, Odinga, is telling voters he will create a monthly stipend for families from a new social protection fund he says will have money gained by cracking down on corruption.

That theme is also being promoted by Aganano's Mwaure, while Wajackoyah has gained popularity for his pledge to legalize marijuana, a point attractive to younger voters especially.