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DP William Ruto and ODM party leader Raila Odinga are seen as front runners in the 2022 presidential election.

Fifth Estate

Why it is too early to predict 2022 presidential election

The 2022 election is poised to be very interesting and might even usher a new beginning in our political mobilisation. Granted, it is difficult to call or even predict from the campaign trail, because there is a sense in which these campaigns are redefining what we have seen in the past.

Clearly, whether the wave we are seeing will translate to votes is indeterminate for now. Baba’s forays into the Mountain and popular endorsement by the top business and opinion leaders has put him on a pedestal but unless some thorough sentiments analysis is done or the vote cast, you can never be too sure.

You see, for presidential campaign teams, sentiment analysis is crucial because opinion polls have become fairly mundane and fairly less credible. Quite a number of pollsters have emerged and the veracity of the methodology used and the people behind most of them have also remained questionable. Politicians have also perfected the art of bastardising any opinion poll that does not favour them.

And it does appear that most politicians have, like Chinua Achebe’s Eneke the bird, learnt to fly without perching – they are behind the mushrooming opinion pollsters. They have probably learnt that these polls rarely predict the outcome of the elections, but certainly, influence what the outcome is likely to be. It is also instructive to note that the established consumer and market research organisations of repute seem to be giving opinion polls a wide berth for now.

Well, back to the 2022 elections and indeed the campaigns are already giving us a unique electioneering experience. For starters, we have Raila Odinga’s main presidential rival, the DP, take Baba’s stronghold by storm, pulling massive crowds have hitherto never been witnessed. Of course, voices of dissent could be heard in most of the DP’s stop overs and his rallies in Migori, Homa Bay and even pockets of chaos in Kisumu. But then, dissent is a good culture in a democracy and the fact that he pulled the crowds he did in the company of Governor Okoth Obado is speaking of a new awakening.

Then we have seen Baba’s forays to the mountain, which appears to have jolted the DP’s camp and they have come out guns blazing, with near erratic responses that has angered most leaders in the region. You add to Raila’s stomping of the DP’s Uasin Gishu backyard and the DP’s massive forays into the Coastal region and game on. Indeed, the political contest is poised for an interesting political duel. Presidential candidates are traversing all parts of this country, selling their economic models, campaign messages and their agenda for this country and it can’t get better than this for our fledgling democracy.

Voters are in this elevated to this bright space where, barring violence and political intolerance, the major competitors have to win us by articulating how best they are going to build on the gains we have made and take us to the next level.

Raila Odinga and the DP command mammoth crowds wherever they go and that seems to be no problem at all and it is the reason why there is a gulf between these two and the rest. It is thus incumbent upon their campaign teams to leverage on both the nonverbal and verbal rhetoric and invest beyond the big rallies. They must have on the ground a network of opinion leaders and grassroots campaigners who resonate with the locals to drill down their messages with the sole goal of changing behaviour and winning votes.

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But to call this race is way too early because a day in Kenyan politics can make a massive difference. Moreover, as a country, we have experienced ethnic mobilization of voters since the dawn of multi-party democracy in 1992 to even imagine that Raila will get massive votes in Ruto’s backyard or that the mammoth crowd in the DP’S rallies in Homa Bay, for instance, will translate to votes.

In the last elections, the President and his deputy got slightly less than 2000 votes in Homa Bay. Therefore, on paper, the DP would do well to get even 1000 votes, even if this reality is compounded by the rallies we are seeing. The same is the case with the crowds both Baba and the DP are pulling in the Mount Kenya region. Nevertheless, targeted messaging and an understanding of the sentiments aroused in the Mount Kenya forays will make a big difference because the battleground that is Mount Kenya will play a crucial role in the 2022 elections.

The author is a PhD Candidate in Media Studies and Political communication.


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