The stark possibility of a run-off is forcing President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA rival Raila Odinga to go flat out to secure a round-one win.
The nightmare is a close vote, frustrated voters in violence hotspots, a run-off and Supreme Court challenge. Thus, both sides seek decisive, incontestable victory on August 8.
Three recent polls are cause for alarm and point to a possible rerun.
Just 24 days remain to the epic battle billed as Kenya’s most hotly contested.
Tough constitutional requirements have pushed Uhuru and Raila into overdrive to guarantee an outright majority vote in the first round.
The Constitution states that to be declared President, a candidate must garner 50 per cent plus-one vote of the total votes cast — and secure at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in half of the counties.
History gives cause for worry.
No President seeking reelection has ever managed to break he 50 per cent barrier in his final tally.
Daniel Moi got roughly 36 per cent of the vote in 1992. He won 40 per cent in 1997. Mwai Kibaki got 45 per cent when he sought reelection in 2007.
In 2013, Uhuru narrowly avoided a run-off by surpassing the 50 percent mark by just 8,000 votes in a hotly contested campaign. The results were disputed by Raila who said it was rigged and stolen.
Raila, a former Prime Minister running on the Cord ticket, lodged a petition at the Supreme Court but judges upheld Uhuru’s victory.
Three recent opinion polls by leading pollsters have projected a possible run-off.
And the two most recent place undecided voters at a very significant eight per cent, which could determine the outcome.
The surveys indicate neither of the two presidential contenders in Kenya’s 12th General Election would be able to meet the 50 per cent plus-one vote threshold.
Two separate opinion polls conducted in the last one and half months showed Uhuru and Raila are far below the constitutional threshold enabling them to avoid a painful rerun.
A popularity survey by Ipsos released on May 30 indicated that if the vote were held then, Uhuru would lead by 47 per cent against Raila’s 42 per cent.
Despite the five-point lead against his main challenger, Uhuru would be unable to guarantee a clear majority.
Another opinion poll by Infotrak a month later on June 29, indicated Uhuru and Raila were in a tight race. If the election were held then, Uhuru would get 48 per cent against Raila’s 43 per cent.
On May 18, a similar poll by the Radio Africa Group research department placed Raila at 40 per cent and Uhuru at 49 per cent.
The three polls have driven home the possibility of a run-off, and both camps have stepped up their forays, trying to turn the tables against each other ahead of the epic election.
Both Uhuru and Raila are travelling widely in gruelling campaigns, spending heavily and displaying their might.
Raila has more than six helicopters and hundreds of Land Cruisers crossing the country.
The ruling Jubilee and the opposition alliance are braving hostility and scouring each other’s strongholds and battlegrounds.
Every vote is precious. On Election Day, foot soldiers will see who has not voted, track them down and take them to polling stations.
Raila, a formidable figure figure in Kenya’s opposition politics, says Uhuru has no chance of defeating him at the polls — if elections are free and fair.
To buttress his presidential bid, he crafted the National Super Alliance, the springboard he believes will give him his best opportunity to government Kenya.
NASA brings together Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress, Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Party, Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya and Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto’s Chama Cha Mashinani.
Stung by the poll results, Uhuru and Raila are leaving nothing to chance, trying to open up fresh battlegrounds in the homestretch.
Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto have held tens of rallies on traditional opposition turf, braving anti-Jubilee chants in Western, Coast and Nyanza.
Raila and his brigade too have faced hostility, heckling and rock-throwing, the latest yesterday in Thika town.
Jubilee is keen to score over 25 per cent of the votes cast in some opposition bedrock counties. It has targetted Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties where they have held a series of rallies.
In Nyanza, Jubilee believes it has turned Kisii and Nyamira into battlegrounds and it says Wajir is now also contested.
Yesterday DP Ruto campaigned in Kisii and Nyamira and was politely received.
“We have made significant inroads in Kisii and Nyamira counties. I can tell you we have done very well and our assessment is that the people of the Gusii community are responding to our messages,”National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said.
The Garissa Township MP dismissed a possible run-off.
“NASA has no chance of forcing a run-off with us, no way, we have a clear first-round victory,” he said.
Jubilee and NASA are battling for Kajiado and Narok counties which gave Raila a slim edge in 2013. They are considered crucial on August 8.
Raila, who brought on board Rutto’s CCM, has mounted a ferocious assault against Jubilee in the South Rift. NASA wants to turn Bomet county, the hotbed of South Rift politics, into a swing vote county after the governor fell out with DP Ruto.
NASA is also targetting Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo and West Pokot where it says Jubilee’s sour arrangement with Kanu has borne no fruit.
“We have analysed this election and we are confident of a round-one victory, nothing like a run-off,” said NASA presidential campaign team member Timothy Bosire.
Some analysts say the President and his Jubilee Party of uneasily merged affiliates are facing a huge challenge from a more organised opposition.
Other analysts say it’s the opposition that faces the huge challenge.
In 2013 when Uhuru wa, backed by retired President Kibaki, Raila’s presidential campaign was plagued disorganised campaign machinery and low voter turn out
Today, however, the well-oiled machine is functioning.