Emotive appeal: The wild card of Presidential race

IN 2013, Cord lost the election on the basis of weak framing of the key “emotive issue” for that election. They misunderstood the International Criminal Court case and its power in that election. There was a strong belief (or some blind faith by Cord) that Kenyans would not vote for a pair of leaders who were ICC suspects.

This could have given the Cord team some sort of comfort, or sense of false victory. On the other hand, the Jubilee Alliance team made the ICC the core issue that drove voter registration and turnout. In that election, Cord leveraged on development promises as their rallying call.

One of the lessons that NASA flagbearer Raila Odinga walked into the 2017 election with, is that emotive issues have a stronger appeal than rational issues. And, come the August 8 polls, history is repeating itself, but the roles have reversed. UhuRuto are using their track record to pitch and have gone further to give more development-related promises if they are reelected. On the other hand, Raila Odinga has leveraged on “unga” and grand corruption to whip up emotions amongst Kenyans

With three weeks to the election, the challenge at hand for both sides is what strategies they need to put in place as a ticket to the coveted House on the Hill. There are still a number of Kenyans who are undecided about which presidential candidate to vote for. They could be undecided because none of the candidates have provided enough reasons to attract their support. They need to be persuaded who is the lesser of two “evils”. Data has shown that undecided voters are generally less interested in politics, are not interested in the news, tend to be younger, have lower levels of education and are predominantly women voters. Political strategists need to find out what are the issues that matter to these demographic segments in order to win them over.

To win this election, the other problem political strategists must address is voter turnout. Each side must give their supporters compelling reasons to wake up in the morning to vote, come August 8. A strong emotive proposition needs to be sent out to voters.

What is the emotive issue in this campaign? It is my belief that the voters want to “feel” how an issue has affected them directly and personally. Political scientists recommend, “in politics, aim for the heart and not the head”.

Ireri is Director, TIFA Research

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