Jubilee questions credibility of poll funded by Opposition

Journalists arriving for the teleconference with American pollster John Zogby were ushered into a small conference room at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi on Wednesday afternoon.

Those who arrived late, dragging in their equipment for live transmission of the event, were surprised to find their colleagues hunched over their notebooks and speaking into a telephone on speakerphone.

At the other end of the line was the pollster, Mr Zogby, and he would take time to look up the poll on his computer before answering the questions.

There was nothing to film, for the TV journalists, and the others had to bear with the awkwardness of asking questions to a man they could not see and had never seen or heard before.

SLIM LEAD

Asked about the difference between his poll, which had Mr Odinga with a slim lead over President Uhuru Kenyatta, and others released before, which have shown Mr Odinga behind, Mr Zogby told reporters: “I think we all agree on the directional signal of the polls.

We are all not saying the same exact things. I think we all are agreeing that Mr Kenyatta’s lead has subsided but that this is a much closer race than it was, say, last week or two weeks ago.”

READ: Jubilee starts ‘war’ with Infotrak

He said the reason he was comfortable with the poll that he “oversaw, monitored and helped draft and analyse” was that in his 32 years of polling, there have been many incidents in which his results have been different from those of other pollsters but he has been proven right.

This was the backdrop against which the poll, Mr Zogby said had been paid for by Nasa, was released.

RAISED QUESTIONS

That Nasa had paid for the poll was probably among the reasons it was treated with caution by the leading national newspapers as it would have raised questions such as whether the poll would have been made public if it had shown Mr Odinga trailing President Kenyatta.

There would also be concerns about the pollster’s methodology given he did not set foot in the country, and is probably unfamiliar with the Kenyan environment, and depended on statistics gathered by his team on the ground.

READ: Uhuru, Raila fall short of magical 50pc support

With 19 days to the General Election at the time it was released, the survey marked the start of the last two weeks within which opinion polls can be released.

Going by the law, the latest an opinion poll can be published would be five days before the General Election.

ZOGBY POLL

The agreement within the industry is seven days to the polls.

The Zogby Poll became the first survey, paid for by a political outfit, to be published in the current campaign period.

It could also be the beginning of political bickering over opinion polls that has characterised the last days of campaigns in recent election years.

READ: Uhuru leads Raila in new poll

Before its publication, the Jubilee Party had a whiff of information that a Nasa-affiliated pollster would be publishing a poll showing President Kenyatta and his closest competitor  were tied at 47 per cent ratings.

The Jubilee side struck on Tuesday evening, telling the press that they were aware that InfoTrak boss Angela Ambitho would be releasing the said poll the following day and that she had met a relative of a prominent Coast ODM politician last week.

CREDIBILITY

“What we are really questioning is the credibility of these opinion polls especially those where there are undeclared interests,” said Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale described the poll as “orchestrated and paid for by Nasa” and meant to lay the ground for the rejection of the results of the presidential election by Mr Odinga.

“They want to poison the minds of Kenyans so that they can refuse the results of the election,” said Mr Duale.

It looked like the Jubilee Party had intelligence that there would be a poll released by a Nasa-affiliated pollster so they used Ms Ambitho’s background – she has consulted for the Opposition before – to claim her firm would be the source of the poll.

AMBITHO

On Tuesday evening, Ms Ambitho bristled at the suggestion she had a poll ready, telling the Nation on phone that it was apparent that Jubilee politicians were guessing and trying to pre-empt something they had a hunch about.

“These guys may probably have data. They are privy to information and that information is making them pre-emptive,” she said.

“As we speak, we don’t have any data to release,” said Ms Ambitho, who also said she was aware of social media posts criticising her work.

She also referred to the law on opinion polls and the industry standards which leave a two-week window before the General Election within which a poll can be published.

READ: President Kenyatta still leads an advancing Raila Odinga

“Tell me which pollster will not be releasing results. What is happening is a no-brainer: they are just pre-empting. Because it will happen. When it will happen, I can’t tell you because we don’t have data yet. There will be at least one poll,” she said.

TRENDS

Infotrak and Trends and Insights for Africa have since then released poll results.

This is not the first time there has been a kerfuffle over opinion polls just before the elections.

Ms Ambitho recalled that it was not the first time that an allegation has been made against her company.

“They did that in 2007. They did that in 2013. What is so relevant today?” she asked.

In the 2013 election, then government spokesman Muthui Kariuki had termed opinion polls divisive.

The problem was that the survey was paid for by Mr Odinga’s campaign.

‘NASA parties rivalry no threat to Raila bid’

Pakistan court disqualifies Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office