An analysis of voter strengths between the two main coalitions suggests a high voter turnout and how western Kenya votes will significantly influence the outcome of the presidential vote.
Using the 2013 voting patterns to project a 90 per cent turnout, Jubilee and NASA are locked in a dead heat race for 17.6 million projected voters.
The close race is still expected even if NASA secures 80 per cent of western Kenya’s 4.6 million votes with Jubilee garnering slightly over 1.1 million.
This highlights the importance of the 10 counties in the previous Nyanza and Western provinces.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have held numerous campaign meetings in the regions, buoyed by the defections from Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of several local leaders.
Jubilee insiders say they are working to secure at least a quarter of the vote in an area where they only managed nine per cent of the presidential vote in 2013.
But NASA has fought to protect the turf with presidential candidate Raila Odinga touring the region every time Jubilee ventures there.
This perhaps with the knowledge that with the new higher figures, if the Opposition coalition were to succeed in denying Jubilee any inroads, the region could tip the scales in its favour.
The stakes are high in the upcoming elections that could push voter turnout to 90 per cent as desired by NASA. Voter turnout trends show a steady rise in number of voters participating in elections with 2013 the highest at 86 per cent and 2010 referendum at 70 per cent.
Presidential campaigns have entered the homestretch in competing for the 17.6 million projected votes, up from 12.2 million who voted in the last election.
Peter Kenneth branded NASA project
Peter Kenneth branded NASA project
There are 19.6 million registered voters but voter apathy, unforeseen incidents such as unplanned travel, ill-health and death are among the factors that ensure that a complete turnout is impractical.
The higher projections are based on the do-or-die rematch that could see Uhuru Kenyatta exit the stage as the first one-term President or Raila as the unlucky leader who lived his life trying unsuccessfully to lead the country.
Their constituents are alive to the blistering race which has far-reaching ramifications for all future presidential elections, starting with 2022.
Arithmetic for the winning formula has changed significantly, especially for Jubilee which cannot stretch any further the turnout in its strongholds where record levels were reported in the 2013 polls.
Raila’s close associates have variously conceded that the last presidential elections were lost at the voter registration stage, christened the tyranny of numbers, and have worked hard to avoid a recurrence.
Final results from most constituencies in Central Kenya and Rift Valley, which overwhelmingly supported President Uhuru Kenyatta, showed nine out of 10 registered voters cast their ballot.
There is little evidence to suggest any chance of additional upside for Jubilee, but a real prospect for his opponent whose support base has now significantly raised voter registration and possibly, actual turnout.
Nyandarua County, for instance, reported a 94 per cent voter turnout in the last polls against 66 per cent in Mombasa – which supported Kenyatta and Raila, respectively.
Assuming that the exact voting patterns would be replicated — Jubilee wins — but there have been major developments that could either amplify the victory or hand it to NASA.
And in the same way, the incumbency curse might be at play eroding Jubilee’s strength on unfulfilled promises.
NASA is betting on getting the maximum number of its supporters out to vote on August 8, but the same base is where Jubilee is casting its nets hoping to grab a quarter of the votes.
A specific target for Jubilee are the six coastal counties including Kwale where Governor Salim Mvurya is seeking re-election on Jubilee after ditching ODM.
Higher voter turnout presents a realistic chance for a Raila victory over his main rival, which has informed NASA’s new door-to-door vote mobilisation tact dubbed “Get Out The Vote”.
Working on a 90 per cent turnout, most of the marginal increase would be attributed to NASA’s stronghold – assuming that the voting patterns are maintained.
Raila has further embraced Isaac Ruto and his Chama Cha Mashinani, which he hopes will enable him find a stronger hold of Narok – which he won by a thin margin in 2013, and Bomet where he got a paltry five per cent.
Isaac Ruto, the Bomet governor, has promised to deliver 1.5 million votes for the NASA presidential candidate.
In the event that Ruto’s promise flops, NASA could find it difficult to attain a win as long as poor voter turnout is replicated in NASA strongholds.
This could be the reason Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties have been on NASA’s radar in recent weeks, with some possibility that the region is warming up to NASA– if recent political rallies are evidence enough.
NASA says its target is 200,000 votes from the region, or 22 per cent of the 913,000 votes in the two counties.
But Mr Kenyatta, knowing his backyard is not sufficient to guarantee him victory, considering that the factors that buoyed his past candidature are absent this time, is spending thousands of man-hours on the road.
He has made countless trips to the Coast, Kisii region and Western Kenya, both thought to be largely aligned to NASA, in pursuit of precious backing.
In Kisii, Uhuru delivered Sh850 million for the compensation of the 2007 post-election violence in his last trip before heading to inspect a Sh1.2 billion bridge in Budalangi. These and other goodies could endear the regions to Jubilee.
On Wednesday, the President announced the revival of a Sh15 billion brewery plant in Kisumu, albeit being a private project of East African Breweries Limited.
His deputy William Ruto is emboldened by the various development projects launched in Western Kenya, and hoping that they would help carve out a piece of the vote-rich region into the Jubilee basket.
“We want to tell our colleagues that we have taken over Bungoma, courtesy of the improved roads and electricity network,” Ruto said in a campaign rally in Sirisia, Bungoma just days ago.
Strategists for Kenyatta’s re-election bid have advised the party to look at these regions as requirements to tilt the scale.
It is, however, impossible to tell whether Jubilee has made inroads in these areas although its leaders anticipate their efforts will yield at least 25 per cent of the vote.
Nyamira and Kisii counties, however, voted 29 and 27 per cent for Kenyatta in 2013, proving the biggest backing in all the counties in the previous Nyanza and Western provinces.