To guard against a crowded debate that may not offer Kenyans a chance to interrogate what the candidates stand for, the media houses have capped at five per cent the support of a candidate in “two national opinion polls conducted by reputable research firms” for one to be included in the main debate.
Three leading presidential candidates will now battle it out on television and radio after media houses released guidelines for the 2017 presidential debates.
“Candidates with less than five per cent popular support showing in opinion polls will take part in separate single pool debates to be conducted on the same dates,” the Presidential Debates Steering Committee said in the guidelines released on Thursday.
While the spots of President Kenyatta and his main challenger Raila Odinga are assured in the debate, according to recent opinion polls, the other candidates will have to fight tooth and nail for the coveted position to explain to Kenyans their manifestos.
Former Lenana High School teacher Mohamed Abduba Dida, who humoured the nation with his “alternative view” of Kenya during the 2013 debates, may have another chance. He was the only other candidate to go past five per cent in an opinion poll released by Ipsos on May 30.
Mr Dida polled 52,848 and came fifth in the 2013 presidential election that Mr Kenyatta won.
There are seven presidential candidates out to oust President Kenyatta in August.
Other candidates are Thirdway Alliance Kenya leader Ekuru Aukot, former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo, and independent candidates Michael Wainaina, Japhet Kavinga Kaluyu, and former Cooperatives minister Joseph Nyagah.
“These guidelines have been developed in line with international best practice in progressive and developed democracies world over,” said Mr Clifford Machoka, Nation Media Group Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs, and a member of the debate committee.
He said the team had developed the guidelines “in the spirit of transparency and accountability to ensure the candidates and the public are well informed in advance.”
Presidential candidates will have their debates on July 10 and July 24, while that of the running mates will be held on July 17. Unlike in the 2013 debates when there were two moderators for the debates, this time, the committee said, there will only be one who will be chosen based on their proven ability to moderate, experience in live TV broadcast, an understanding of the Kenyan political scene, impartiality and objectivity.