Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
AP

EXPLAINER: Why Kenya's presidential election is important

  • Updated
  • 0

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyans are voting Tuesday to choose a successor to President Uhuru Kenyatta after a decade in power. 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 supported by his former rival Kenyatta. The other is William Ruto, Kenyatta’s deputy who fell out with the president.

Both tend to focus far more on domestic issues, raising the question of how either will follow up on Kenyatta's diplomatic efforts to quell the tensions in neighboring Ethiopia or disputes between Rwanda and Congo.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

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. In his final campaign speech on Saturday, he said if elected, his government will deploy 200 billion shillings ($1.6 billion) a year to increase job opportunities.

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. In his final campaign speech on Saturday, he said that if elected, his government in its first 100 days would begin paying 6,000 shillings ($50) to families living below the poverty line.

WHAT DO VOTERS CARE ABOUT?

Odinga and Ruto have long circled among contenders for the presidency, and there is a measure of apathy among Kenyans, especially younger ones in a country where the median age is about 20. The electoral commission signed up less than half of the new voters it had hoped for, just 2.5 million.

Key issues in every election include widespread corruption and the economy. Kenyans have been hurt by rising prices for food and fuel in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that comes after the financial pain of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a third of the country’s youth are unemployed.

WHEN WILL KENYA HAVE A WINNER?

Official results will be announced within a week of the vote. To win outright, a candidate needs more than half of all votes and at least 25% of the votes in more than half of Kenya’s 47 counties. No outright winner means a runoff election within 30 days.

The previous presidential election in 2017 made history when a top court overturned the results and ordered a new vote, a first in Africa. If the courts again call for a new vote, such an election would take place within 60 days of the ruling. Candidates or others have a week after the results are declared to file a petition to the court, which has two weeks to rule on it.

“I want you to know that we as a country are at an inflection point,” Odinga told the crowd listening to his campaign speech Saturday. “Either something very good will happen or something terrible will happen.”

He vowed to shake the hand of his “rivals” whether he wins or loses.

Ruto said Saturday he will “respect the decision of the people of Kenya” and won't accept violence or participate in anything that undermines the constitution.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

0 Comments

Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

The FBI has searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence. That's according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. Trump says agents opened up a safe at his home and describes their work as an “unannounced raid” that he likened to “prosecutorial misconduct.” The FBI and Justice Department have not confirmed the search. It marks a dramatic and unprecedented escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of the former president.

Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota won a closer-than-expected Democratic primary race against a centrist challenger who questioned Omar's support for the “defund the police” movement. Another progressive, Becca Balint, won the Democratic House primary in Vermont, positioning her to become the first woman representing the state in Congress. And in Minnesota, Republican Brad Finstad was headed to Congress to serve the remaining months of the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s term. A key race also unfolded in western Wisconsin, where Democratic Rep. Ron Kind’s retirement after 26 years in office opens up a seat in a district that has been trending Republican.

Ukraine says that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in a deadly string of explosions at an air base in Crimea that appeared to be the result of a Ukrainian attack. That would represent a significant escalation in the war. Russia denied any aircraft were damaged in Tuesday’s blasts — or that any attack took place. Ukrainian officials have stopped short of claiming responsibility for the explosions at the Saki air base. Satellite photos taken Wednesday showed damaged warplanes. In Ukraine’s east, where fighting has raged for eight years, a Russian attack on Bakhmut in the Donetsk region killed seven, wounded six and damaged stores, homes and apartment buildings, setting off fires

The FBI’s unprecedented search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence is ricocheting around government, politics and a polarized country. Trump and his allies are complaining, and others are wondering Tuesday why the Justice Department — notably cautious under Attorney General Merrick Garland — decided to take such a drastic step. The FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records there from the White House. That’s according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. Trump says agents opened a safe at his home, and he likens their search to “prosecutorial misconduct.”

Donald Trump says he invoked the Fifth Amendment and wouldn’t answer questions under oath in the long-running New York civil investigation into his business dealings. Trump arrived at New York Attorney General Letitia James’ offices Wednesday morning, but sent out a statement more than an hour later saying he declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution.” Anything he said during the deposition could have been used against him in a criminal case, if one ensues. While James’ investigation is civil in nature, the Manhattan district attorney is running a parallel criminal probe.

Powerful explosions have rocked a Russian air base in Crimea, and authorities say at least one person was killed and several others wounded. Russia’s Defense Ministry says that munitions blew up at the Saki base and that the installation was not shelled. It said no warplanes were damaged. But Ukrainian social networks are abuzz with speculation that it was hit by Ukrainian-fired long-range missiles. Ukraine's Defense Ministry has not commented on the cause of the blasts. If the base was, in fact, struck by the Ukrainians, it would mark the first known major attack on a Russian military site on the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by the Kremlin in 2014.

Kenya is seeing lower voter turnout in an unusual presidential election as some voters cite little hope of change. A longtime opposition leader who is backed by the outgoing president faces the deputy president who styles himself as the outsider. The electoral commission says turnout was 56% an hour before polls closed. Turnout in the previous election was 80%. The election has been close but calm. East Africa’s economic hub could see a presidential runoff for the first time. Economic issues could be of greater importance than the ethnic tensions that have marked past votes. Results must be announced within a week.

Whether an FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence is a prelude to criminal charges is unknown — especially unclear since other investigations into mishandling of classified information have ended without prosecution or in misdemeanor plea deals. The search focuses new attention on the thicket of statutes that govern the handling of government records. Much remains uncertain about Monday’s search, including what precisely the FBI was looking for and why it acted when it did. The Justice Department has been investigating the discovery of classified material in 15 boxes of White House records that the National Archives and Records Administration recovered from Mar-A-Lago earlier this year.

The House panel investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection has interviewed former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and met briefly with Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor Doug Mastriano as it probes Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Pompeo is among several former Cabinet officials the committee wanted to hear from after it was disclosed that some considered invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Pompeo's appearance Tuesday was confirmed by a person granted anonymity to discuss the situation. Mastriano appeared less than 15 minutes and questioned the validity of the process, his attorney said. Mastriano helped organize efforts in Pennsylvania to submit alternate electors beholden to Trump.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News

News Alert