Politicians and analysts should revise their idea of ‘strongholds’ if latest survey on the August elections is anything to go by.
Five months to the elections, one in four (24.4 per cent) of voters in Central are undecided on who they will vote for President, a surprisingly high percentage for a region that delivered a strongly cohesive vote for Jubilee four years ago.
The same goes for Rift Valley, where 30.6 per cent of voters say they are still undecided.
The survey by Infotrak Research and Consulting suggests that the administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta has seriously haemorrhaged support from their ‘strongholds’ in its first term in office, and some of these voters may choose to express their disapproval passively by simply not turning out to vote.
But the highest chunk of undecided voters, relatively speaking, is in Western, where 40.4 per cent still haven’t made up their minds.
In Coast, 35.5 per cent of voters have not decided whether to support NASA or Jubilee, 26.6 per cent in Eastern, 29.9 per cent in Nairobi and 25 per cent in North Eastern.
Nyanza has the least number of people (14.6 per cent) who have not made up their mind on which coalition to support in the August 8 elections.
Object of aggression
Candidates from both sides, therefore, should take time and effort to campaign in their opponents’ backyards. This time round, support all around the country is much less cohesive than in 2013. Among other reasons, it suggests that ICC dividend of 2013 is over.
In that election, ICC became the ‘Object of Aggression’ and as Mutahi Ngunyi has eloquently argued in the past, Jubilee leaders Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto mobilised the GEMA and Kalenjin nations to confront this object.
The Jubilee vote was therefore more of an ‘anti-ICC protest’ than a ‘pro-Uhuru endorsement’. But that’s a story for another day.
It could also imply that the messaging for the campaigns has not struck a chord with voters — meaning that most of the issues politicians are articulating have little appeal to the voters.
This is entirely not surprising given the polarised political environment characterised by outbursts and insults instead of addressing issues that matter to the mwananchi.
Or the hard economic times – precipitated by drought, runaway unemployment, industrial unrest and political fatigue – could have turned people off politics, with many preferring to focus on making ends meet than on the polemics of who calls the shots at State House.
But it’s not all gloom, at least for some politicians. The study suggests a moderate, centrist position may convert a big section of the undecided electorate. When asked the qualities they admired most in their leaders, NASA supporters said experience and track record, popularity, political network, peaceful and integrity.
Raila was rated highest for experience and track record (51.8 per cent), followed by Kalonzo (23.4 per cent), Mudavadi (21.3 per cent) and Wetang’ula (9.1 per cent).
On the other hand, Raila seems to be perceived as confrontational, even among NASA supporters– just 0.9 per cent say he is “peaceful”.
This may or may not work in his favour. In 2013, there was something to “fight” about– the ICC. This time round, that is not a factor. If Raila is NASA’s candidate, there will be the temptation to stir up some confrontational position.
But that may turn away the big group of undecided voters who value “peace”, says the survey.
According to the survey, Kalonzo is the most peaceful NASA leader (28.1 per cent), followed by Wetang’ula (18.2 per cent) and Mudavadi (16.4 per cent).
Raila leads the pack for NASA ticket (41.6 per cent), followed by Mudavadi (21.6 per cent), Kalonzo (18.2 per cent) and Wetang’ula (three per cent).
A big number of the supporters (15.7 per cent) are not decided yet, presenting opportunity for the co-principals to dig in for support before the primaries next month.